Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chapter 59 - Dark Daughter

The dragon was not that large, as dragons go, only about forty feet long, with ten of that in the tail. But then, she had been a young dragon when she became undead, from what I heard.

Mekarth the Dark
Vampiric Dragon Female
Level 100 Shadowmistress (Dark Sorceress) / Loremaster (Diviner)
Titles: Fallen One, Human Bane, Elf Bane, Orc Bane, Dwarf Bane, Undead Bane, Lichloved, Greedy One, Great Scholar, Daughter of Mirelth

Looking over to Kylana, I said, “Conjure us some lights, my dear. I’d like to see the dragon properly.” Then, I turned to look at Hrozne. “Perhaps you’d like to do the honors? You’re the one she asked to rescue her, after all. Though I’d suggest making you make your new pet do it. Sleeping dragons, and all.”

Hrozne chuckled, and I turned back to look at Merkath as my familiar conjured several orbs of light around us, casting the room in a soft glow, enough for us to see, but not blinding to our eyes that had been adjusted to the darkness. Her black scales glimmered in the lights, looking like a serpent’s scales. She was built like a western-style dragon, with powerful limbs and wings that had to span at least forty feet.

Grumbling about his obvious fate as a sacrificial victim, Sir Dumbass went forward and did as Hrozne told him, shaking a dragon awake. If someone who still possessed free will did it, I would have been very impressed. Since it was a slave doing it, I almost felt bad for it. Almost. But Sir Dumbass was a zealot, and they deserved worse for ruining everyone’s fun.

It surprised literally no one when the dragon yawned, and bit the undead knight in two, even before opening her eyes.

“Hoh, so, Mortal, I see that you’ve succeeded in making your way here. Come closer, and let me look at you, all of you.”

We stepped forward, all seven of us, and looked at the dragon vampire. Her eyes glowed red in the light of the orbs, and she took her time looking each of us over. She nodded slightly, having confirmed something. Looking at us again, she said, “Hrozne Bosorka, you and your allies have done as you said. Your actions since coming to the mine show your character. I see one of you is already a Dragonfriend. I now name the rest of you as such. Each of you shall gain an item from my horde, in accordance with your deeds.”

I dimly noticed that the quest completed sign came up. We all got some gold (meaning I got 100 PP, while Hrozne and Kylana both received 20 PP), and enough experience to bump us all up to Level 42. Oh, and we each got a magic item from the dragon’s horde. Can’t forget that.

Wrath of Demons
Type
Bow
Rank
Rare
Damage
80 – 100
Damage Type
Hellfire
This bow was made from the bones of demons, and strung with the hair of a Greater Succubus. It exists solely to inflict the tortures of the lower planes upon the living. These bows are often carried by mid-level demons or their allies.
Requires: Evil Alignment

+20 Attack
+40 DEX
All damage dealt by this weapon is Hellfire damage.
Hell’s Quiver – Spend 1 MP to generate 1 arrow. Arrow is made of hellfire and disappears after use. Applied when bow is drawn with no arrow on the string.
Inferno Arrow – Spend 1 MP to coat normal or magical arrow with hellfire, allowing it to be fired from the bow. Applied when bow is drawn with arrow on the string.
Imbued: Lifeseeker – Will only hit living creatures. Ignores shields and armor. Cannot attack Undead or Constructs. Passes through nonliving material as though it were not there.
Enchanted: Demoncaller – When delivering the killing blow, there is a 5% chance of the soul of the victim being sacrificed to summon a demon of the target’s level. Demons called in this way serve the wielder of this bow for 48 hours, after which time they are released, but remain on this plane. The wielder, or any other creature, must use normal methods to persuade or coerce the demon into serving past that time.

I smiled as I looked over my pretty new bow. It looked intimidating enough, which was good. I was amused to see that Merkath gave me a weapon that, while certainly effective, would, under no circumstances, be able to harm her. But that was fine. I’d already thought of a bunch of great ways to use this weapon.

I let Hrozne and Kylana chat with Merkath, since they were the scholars in the group, and turned my attention to the guild chat, which just blew up for some reason.

Zayn: What’s going on?

Lexichan: Good, you’re on. Johnist, tell them what you told me.

Johnist: OK, so I’ve been keeping track of events in Duskhaven, through a friend from college. His roommate is caught in the city with her guild, Night’s Requiem. They’re a small guild, only six members, but they’re all former WoD players who reincarnated.

Yukiko: Night’s Requiem? Wasn’t that the guild that was racing you for the ‘Explorer’ titles?

Johnist: Yeah, they’re the ones. We actually became something like friendly rivals for a while.

Zayn: So what’s up?

Johnist: They’ve found the family of one of the four ‘heroes’ that trapped Mirelth. They got a guild quest to eliminate the family. But that isn’t their problem.

Bercilac: Let me guess, they’ve got better protection than they ought to.

Johnist: Right in one. The guild leader, Jayden Redmane, was chased away from the house by three Knights of St. George. When the guild ambushed the pursuing knights, it kicked off a subquest for the Duskfall Event, saying that there were 22 more knights to kill. Or people could join up with the knights, to learn their secrets of dragonslaying.

Zayn: I can see where this is going. What do they need?

Johnist: They’re going to end the family (who turns out to be the head of the Slavers’ Guild), but they are going to need help with the knights, and anyone who decides to join up with them. They reached out to me, seeing if we had any resources in the city.

Zayn: Wait one.

Turning away from the guild chat, I cleared my throat to get everyone’s attention. Looking at Merkath, I smiled, and said, “Lady Dragon, as you know, your mother has taken possession of the city of Duskhaven. Through the use of Traveler magic, I’ve learned that members of the Order of St. George are in the city, protecting the family of one of the four that chained Mirelth. Do you think you’ll be able to get us through the barrier surrounding the city?”


(Jayden POV)
I cursed as I saw what was ahead of us. In the hours since the event quest with the knights was announced, players in the city had taken sides. A running battle had started between some of the Knights and members of the Thrillseekers guild, trying to collect the bounty and get out of the city. Others, mostly ‘lightsiders’, had started intervening on behalf of the Knights, to try and gain the skills to slay a dragon. Those Scions of Torgan emerged from the shadows and declared themselves allies of the Knights and those that fought with them. This caused more players to enter the battle, fighting against the Knights to get the reputation bonuses from killing Scions and their allies.

In short, the city was a mess, and the guard on the target’s mansion had not eased up in the slightest. In fact, according to what Shadrack, our Goblin Ranger, said, the guard had increased, in number, if not in quality. It was going to be tough for six players to break into the mansion, even if the guards were all lower level than we were. Unfortunately, the guards ranged from 30 to 65, and I knew the guard captain and the guild leader were in the neighborhood of 100. We couldn’t rely on a brute force approach, not unless something happened to give us an opening.

Thankfully, Scholar (that was his forum name, anyways) had come through. He wasn’t specific, but he said one of his classmates was Johnist, that guy from the Lords back in WoD that we’d competed against. He had always been good people in game, but I was surprised to learn how close we were in RL. Anyways, apparently Johnist had made a couple calls, and we should expect a distraction soon.

“Fighting is getting awfully close, Jay. We’re going to get blown if we don’t move soon.”

“Keep it together, Shadrack. We’ve got a distraction incoming.” I looked at the time display in my HUD, and said, “Thirty seconds. Don’t know what the distraction is going to be, but we give the guards thirty seconds after it goes down to respond, and then we move while they’re facing the wrong way. Everyone ready?” Five heads nodded at me, and I smiled. I was about to make some kind of witty remarks to pump up the team, when the silence was broken by a dragon’s roar.

Reflexively, we all looked up, to see a dragon, much smaller than Mirelth, fly through an open portal… fifty feet above the ground. Several other figures stepped out of the portal over the town square, and stood on a platform of hardened light. One of the figures transformed into a miniature dragon, and he and an angel flew down towards the square, while the rest began sliding down a chute of hard light to join them.

New Event Quest Alert!

Return of the Dark Daughter

Many centuries ago, after Mirelth was captured, one of her surviving hatchlings attempted to free her mother, but was sealed away by Knights of the Order of St. George. Her whereabouts lost to the ravages of time, only now has Merkath the Dark been found, and freed, looking to join her mother once more.

Will you aid the dragon? Or will you fight alongside the Knights?
Rank
B
Success
Merkath survives the battle until the Knights of St. George are defeated.
Failure
Merkath dies before the Knights of St. George are defeated.
Rewards
Gold
Experience
Title
Duskfall Event conclusion
Consequences
Gold
Experience
Title
Duskfall Event conclusion

I blinked, and then laughed, as I looked to the group. “MOVE IT! That’s our distraction!”

Khatouhm, our Human Monk, chuckled as we broke cover, and ran for the mansion. “Who did you call to arrange THAT?”

“You guys remember Johnist from WoD? Seems he’s my roommate’s classmate. So I called my roommate, he called Johnist, and Johnist, it seems, called his boss.”

Shadrack redoubled his pace. “We better hurry, then! That bastard’s had enough glory. Now it is our turn!” Still, we were all laughing as we struck the guards, cleaving through them like a hot knife in butter. I just hoped we could do this before Zayn went and did something completely crazy.

As if unleashing ANOTHER dragon into the city wasn’t crazy enough!


(Zayn POV)
This was the first time taking my dragon form, and I found I was enjoying the hell out of it! Of course, all my gear melded into my skin with the change, which actually made me slightly weaker than I was, but the ability to fly and breathe hellfire mostly made up for it.

Especially when Nithroel was at my side. We made our way to the city square, where most of the fighting was, and between my hellfire breath and Nithroel’s blast of unholy power, it was like a bomb went off in the middle of the fighting, clearing a spot for the rest of us to land, while Merkath circled around.

Transforming back to my original form, I smile at everyone, and then yelled, “HELLOOOOO DUSKHAVEN! ZAYN DARKMORE IS IN THE HOUSE! So glad you all turned out for this. Now, I’m sorry to interrupt your squabbling, but will all of the Knights and Scions please line up in an orderly fashion so we can start killing you? I’ve got a family reunion to get to, so I’d rather not spend all day trying to catch you cowardly little rats.”

There was a scream of rage at my words, as I hoped there would be, and I easily took a step back to avoid a jet of flame that passed in front of my face. “YOU BASTARD! I’LL KILL YOU A HUNDRED TIMES FOR ALL YOU’VE DONE! BY THE FIRE BE PURGED!”

Zephara Void
Corrupted Human Living Dead Female
Level 40 Hellfire Mistress (Flame Sorceress) / Terror Cultist
Titles: Chainbreaker, Former Slave, Broken One, Corrupted One, Flametouched, Undead Bane
Guild: Scions of Torgan


I turned, and smiled at the woman on the other end of the path that quickly opened itself between us. “Ah, Zephara. I promised you that I’d be seeing you soon, didn’t I?”




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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Chapter 30 - Privateer Tales

“All ships report direct hits, Captain! The escorts are down.”

“Well done. Order the freighters to surrender. If someone objects, blast them as a lesson to the others.”

We were in the Kthani System now, two months into our deep raiding mission. The first week or so was like child’s play, honestly. This deep in the Core, in Aprico space, there was little concern about pirates (or privateers, in our case). Sure, the merchantmen were armed, but they weren’t warships, and they didn’t have Sanctuary weapons. Even with the high density of traffic, there wasn’t much people could do against our sneak attacks. We averaged seven freighters a day for that first week, and we were taking it slow, letting people know we were there.

After the first week, we saw increased patrols in system. It was a pathetic response, honestly, but it was understandable. We were careful to uncloak only a single ship at a time, so they naturally thought there was a single ship, or a group of ships working individually, preying on their supply lines. We started making simultaneous strikes, eliminating patrol craft at the same time as we took out freighters, just to prove we could.

THAT sparked a fire under someone, because for the last three weeks we’d been seeing the freighters gather in convoys, for protection. Unfortunately, they started with corvettes and other small craft as escorts, which were easy prey for Wraith Group. That was also when we were able to start capturing freighters, as seeing their fellows die took the fire out of some freighter captains.

That prompted more escorts in an effort to protect the convoys, but they were not prepared for our tactics. This was submarine warfare, in essence, and when it came to groups of stealthed vessels harassing convoys and their escorts, we humans needed only look back to the Wolf Packs of the Second World War. The tactics took some adapting to account for the realities of space combat, but still, we proved their usefulness once again. This last convoy was guarded by a heavy cruiser and six frigates. We launched simultaneous attacks, taking out all seven enemy ships at once.

A couple of the freighters tried to run, and were destroyed by the Gambit’s fighters. Needless to say, the remaining twelve freighter captains surrendered.


(Later)
Even in the Core, in the heart of Aprico space, there will be black market worlds. Where there is money and power, there are people who want things that might otherwise be denied to them, or are not available to them at the prices they’d like, or are simply things they cannot be KNOWN to have. Thus, black markets thrive everywhere.

Thazana III was such a world. By this point, we were getting VERY rich off the spoils of Aprico transports, selling ships, cargo, and crew to the black market worlds. Of course, since we were making frequent runs on these worlds, I’d been expecting to get jumped by Aprico ships here, or at one of the other such worlds in this sector, before too long.

Which is why I wasn’t entirely surprised when the fleet of thirty ships appeared from the jump point as we were on our way out of the system after another successful selling run. While thirty was rather an exaggerated number for our little group of seven, I could see the logic. We’d been hammering them hard, and both the Assault Group and Main Fleet were still out there, causing trouble. We were the weakest of the three groups, and they probably figured to hammer us down so that they could reinforce against the other groups.

And in a fair fight, they’d probably get us, or at least damage us enough that we’d have to limp off for repairs, where they could trap us in drydock. It was a good thing I didn’t fight fair, and had been planning for something like this.

“Kyle, please have Captain Tanner activate the mines.”

We were getting filthy rich off this war, but the captains and I had spent the ‘ship’ shares of the profits wisely, upgrading our gear when we found stuff that was better than what we had. In the case of Lucky Dice over on the Chimera, he found a mine configuration that was extremely good at disabling enemy warships. He got the schematics and machines to build them for (relatively) cheap since the kind of people that used mines against warships tended to want the warships destroyed or crippled, rather than just having their systems go offline for somewhere between 20-30 minutes. There was also the fact that even if you put them someplace warships had to fly through, they were usually a danger to everyone, including your own ships. This gave mines in general a limited use. But when combined with Chimera’s phase-mine technology, the system was perfect for securing nasty surprises in jump points if a fleet tried to bottle you in.

So naturally, once I learned about his ship’s new capabilities, I had him lay phased minefields across the jump points of all the black market worlds, for just this reason. Ion Pulse Mines were designed to overload a warship’s shields and systems for 20-30 minutes, though it usually took two or more to take down anything bigger than a corvette. That idea was based on the mines making contact with the ship’s shields or hull. When Chimera’s mines went off INSIDE the Aprico fleet’s hulls, they were utterly devastating.

The little ships, the corvettes and frigates, went dead in space. Completely dead, as in the EM pulse was enough to electrify the ship’s internal bulkheads. The majority of those crews were dead before they knew what happened. The five cruisers anchoring the fleet were simply disabled, though one was later ripped apart by secondary explosions in the hull. Someone over there must have been getting ready to fire a missile, or something like that. Anyways, there were twenty-five dead hulks and four disabled cruisers just ready for salvage.

Of course, first we had to convince the crews of the last four ships to surrender. Our boarding teams had gotten a lot of practice the last month, and most corporate captains didn’t like to argue when faced with certain death, but I wouldn’t let the teams get complacent. It only took one mistake to ruin your whole day, and the more relaxed you got in the face of the enemy, the more likely it was that you were going to make that mistake.

Which is why, when we transported onto the enemy cruiser, my group (me, Wildcat, and Moose) landed directly on the bridge, with our weapons already out. The bridge crew was just now recovering from what was essentially the taser blast from hell, and were unable to resist. The captain, a big, hulking Gothan male, became rather tame when I pointed my pistol in his face, and ordered the surrender.

On the other hand, there was an alien with a head like a squid, who was EXTREMELY pissed off at the moment, and appeared to have psionic powers. This had to be an Illyian, and a fairly important one, judging by his clothes. Unfortunately for it, it saw me as the leader, and tried to do some kind of mental attack. I could feel it pressuring my head, but Daddy made sure the Family was able to have at least some defense against mental attacks.

Submit to your new Master, girl! Give in, and I will make a fine broodmother out of you. Resist, and I’ll rip your mind apart!

Gritting my teeth, I managed to pull the triggers on both my pistols, stunning myself and the fishy bastard. Only, I wasn’t coming down off a taser blast already, and I wasn’t trying to connect to the mind of someone who was getting stunned while getting stunned myself. I staggered against the captain’s chair, my suit helping reduce the effect of the stun blast. The Illyian, however, went back down like a puppet with its strings cut.

“Moose, secure that… thing. Full psychic protocols. Wildcat, send to the group. Inform them to stun any Illyians on sight. And have Technica send word to the fleet, so they know about the Illyians’ psionic abilities.”

The Gothan captain shook his head in amazement as Wildcat got on the horn to the Traveler, and Moose began restraining the Illyian, including a special collar that negated powers. It was also set to explode on command, if the prisoner got too annoying, or was able to overpower the negator somehow. Finally, the captain said to me, “Who are you people?”

“I am Frosty, and your ships and crews are the property of Sanctuary, until such time as we decide to unload you. Fortunately, there’s a slave market on the planet below, so you won’t be with us long. Your ships will make a nice addition to some pirate fleet in this sector, no doubt.”

“WHAT? Why would you give weapons to pirates? Do you know how much trouble those bastards will cause?”

I laughed. “Oh, you don’t care about the fact that you’re going to be a slave, but you hate that your ships will be going to pirates?”

The captain growled. “I am a warrior of the Gothan. I was bested in battle and lived, that much is expected. But that does not mean I have to like the fact that my weapons will be turned over to pirates. They are the scum of the universe!”

“Sanctuary doesn’t care about that. Aprico Corporation has aided pirates in efforts against us, and so we will return the favor tenfold. Now, who is that Illyian?”

“Kryqkyx Sloeq’ylh, Administrator of Prukyb VII. It is a major trade hub in this sector.”

“Yes, I’m aware. We’ve made quite a bit of profit taking out shipping going to and from that system. Honestly, if I wasn’t having so much fun, I could retire and be set for life.”

“So it was your group that was behind those raids? Fleet Intelligence was sure of it, but those Aprican bastards said that no one would dare do something like that to Aprico Corporation.”

“Yeah, that’s been us. Got to say, you guys have made things really easy on us so far. Hell, any human could have planned for better defenses than what you’ve been doing. First you leave whole swaths of space unprotected, except by pickets. Then you’re too slow to step up patrols, and your convoy efforts are simply a joke. You guys may have nice weapons, but it is clear that you’ve gotten soft.”

The captain sighed, bowing his head. “Soft? We are proud warriors, and without your tricks you would never have survived against my fleet!”

I waved a hand dismissively. “And that is why you have grown soft. You expect the universe to play by your rules, and be constrained by your way of doing things. You don’t have the ability to adapt, if someone challenges you in new and different ways. You may as well replace your fleets with drones for all the good it does you.”


“Remember this, when you’re a slave. At the end of the day, nothing else matters except winning. No matter what you have to do to win the war, if at the end your side is standing triumphant, then all sins are forgiven. But no matter how correct the loser’s strategy is, no matter how well their men carried out orders, without victory, none of it matters.”



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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chapter 58 - Knightmares

The deathless knight froze in place as Hrozne’s spell took hold. The necromancer chuckled, and said, “Honestly, don’t you paladin types learn anything besides propaganda? You may call yourself ‘deathless’, but you are an undead. Which means that a necromancer like myself is quite capable of making you my toy.”

I smiled, and said, “Well, that was good. Now, shall we continue on and free the undead dragon so she can join her mother?”

The knight laughed smugly, and said, “You may have enslaved me, but you’ll never find Mirelth! The Order made sure of that! She was too much for us alone, but when we made her an enemy of all lands, we were victorious!”

“Ah, so you manipulated events so Mirelth attacked the kingdoms, and they sent their best warriors against her to do what pathetic, hateful weaklings like you couldn’t. Got it. Anyways, that’s not an issue. I personally freed Mirelth months ago and I believe she’s currently hunting down the descendants of those who captured her. I’m sure she’ll be happy to know that your Order was behind it all.”


(Elsewhere)
Jayden cursed as she turned the corner into what had been the slums of Duskhaven. Used to be, back before the Duskfall, which is what people were calling the Dragon’s Curse that had isolated the city and turned everyone into the living dead, bound to the city’s borders.

The Churches and the government were in disarray after the Duskfall. Hell, the entire kingdom was in disarray, according to what she had heard from the Travelers who had allies outside the city. It made sense with the King and high-ranking ministers trapped within the city. And none had found a way to soothe the dragon’s anger.

Not until now. Jayden was a Traveler herself, and her college roommate was in the Brudrinen Empire, and had gained enough rep with the scholars in Thol Darum that he had access to the Royal Libraries there. He had uncovered an account in the archives, listing the surviving members of the group that had taken down Mirelth back in the day. There were four individuals that had survived that battle. That much was known to loremasters. But between her friend’s research, and her own ventures into the Duskhaven Royal Library, she had found the surviving family of one of those men, the Shieldweaver line.

Stanway Lashlord and his two surviving children were the direct descendants of the Shieldweaver from the ancient story. When she found that out, she’d gotten a quest to kill Lashlord and his entire house. It offered a lot, but the big thing was that it would advance the Duskfall Event.

Jayden Redmane
Half-Celestial Human Living Dead Female
Level 50 Assassin (Rogue) / Ranger
Titles: Silent Killer, Human Bane, Manslayer, Lightfoot, Poison Master, Dragoncursed
Guild: Night’s Requiem

Jayden sighed as she looked at her status. The ‘Living Dead’ and ‘Dragoncursed’ parts still annoyed her. They had been given to everyone who had been caught in the city when the dragon Mirelth unleashed her spell, trapping everyone. Her guild, Night’s Requiem, had been working with the local Thieves’ Guild to try and sort out those annoying Scions of Torgan that were disrupting trade.

Now, she had a chance to get herself, maybe the whole guild, free of the city. She just had to return alive with the information she carried. When she found the name of the Shieldweaver descendant, she had obviously done some research. He was the head of the Slavers’ Guild, but according to what she could see, his level wasn’t all that high. Neither were his kids’ levels anything to be afraid of. She had been planning her assault, when three strange knights came out of nowhere, and tried to kill her!

Knight of the Order
Human Living Dead Male
Level 30 Knight (Fighter) / Paladin
Titles: Undead Bane, Dragonslayer, Dragoncursed

She had levels on the three mobs, but they were armored up, and she didn’t have surprise on her side. Worse, the Rogues of the city had quickly found that while the ‘Living Dead’ bit had some nice bonuses, there were drawbacks. They took damage in the sunlight (not an issue inside this dome of eternal darkness), and were treated as undead. That meant that things like poison or critical strikes were useless against them, except maybe for getting past a bit of armor. The kicker, though, was that as undead, she was vulnerable to holy attacks, which Paladins specialized in. And with the ‘Undead Bane’ title, they’d hit even harder.

So she ran, all the while calling on Guild chat to try and get a group together to help take out these knights. They had an ambush planned, not far from here, but she had to live long enough to get there. She’d already been hit a few times as she ran, taking a fifth of her HP. But it wasn’t far now…

She ducked, as a sword flashed from the darkness and embedded itself in the wooden wall behind her. Cursing, she was off again. At the far end of the block, she saw the hastily erected barricade, and smiled, diving behind it as the five other members of Night’s Requiem emerged from the shadows, attacking the bastards. It was over almost as soon as it began, now that the agile, but HP-poor Rogue was no longer the target of all three Knights. When the last knight fell, they found they’d gained a chunk of XP, but more importantly two quests (though the first one seemed to go out to everyone in the city), and a nice bit of faction XP with Mirelth.

New Event Quest Alert!

Knight’s Nightmare

Knights from the Order of St. George have been found in the city. Those seeking to oppose the Dragon Goddess Mirelth may seek them out to gain training in their knowledge of fighting dragons. However, slaughtering the Knights may be a good way to seek the Dragon’s favor.
Rank
C
Success
Join the Order of St. George.
Protect the Knights in Duskhaven from harm (22/25 Remaining)
Failure
The Knights in Duskhaven are slain. (22/25 Remaining)
Rewards
Experience
Dragonslayer Title
One Item from the Order’s Armory
Reputation with Mirelth faction becomes At War
Consequences
Experience
+1000 Reputation with Mirelth faction

New Guild Quest Alert!

Broken Chains

You have learned that Stanway Lashlord, head of the Slavers’ Guild, is the descendant of Voghan Shieldweaver, the cleric of Loviatar that chained Mirelth millennia ago. Eliminating that line may lessen the dragon’s ire towards Duskhaven.
Rank
A
Success
Capture Stanway Lashlord and his household, and deliver them to Mirelth.
OR
Kill Stanway Lashlord and his household, and give proof of their deaths to Mirelth.
Failure
Give up on the quest.
Stanway Lashlord escapes the city.
Rewards
Experience
One Item from the Dragon’s Hoard (Each)
Faction Reputation with Mirelth becomes Friendly
Unknown
Consequences
Faction Reputation with Mirelth becomes Hatred
Individuals killing you gain Faction Reputation with Mirelth.

Oh. Oh shit. This was our ticket to the big time! Looking at the rest of the guild, I said, “I’m going to log off and make some calls. In the meantime, I’m sending you everything I found on the mansion the targets are staying at. Start planning the raid. I’ll see if I can’t find some support.” Everyone nodded, and we agreed to meet at the inn we’d been calling home since the start of the Duskfall.


(Back in the Mine)
With the zealot knight under Hrozne’s control, we entered the tomb. The miners had, apparently, broken into what looked like an antechamber near the main entrance to the tomb. I could see collapsed stone in the face of the original entrance. If the whole thing was sealed off ages ago, then they probably never knew it was here.

With the runes protecting the place broken, we were able to enter, and found ourselves confronted with a trio of undead.

Risen Priestess
High Elf Zombie Female
Level 60 Zombie

They were dressed as priestesses, though it seemed that whatever had happened here had transformed their corpses into mindless undead. All three looked to have been killed by slashing weapons, like the sword Sir Dumbass had. I looked over my shoulder at Hrozne. “I believe this is your territory. Let’s avoid fighting everything we see until we know how Merkath feels about them. We can release them later, if need be.”

Hrozne nodded, and moved to the front of the group, using his ability to calm the undead, and control them. It wasn’t as total a control as if he had made them, but the mindless undead began following him like rats after a piper. All the while, Sir Dumbass kept muttering how, once the Order found out about this, that they would purge us all, in the name of the light. Or some such crap. I ignored him. Though it sounded like he and Zephara would get along. Maybe, once I ran into Ms. Void again, I’d introduce them.

As we walked, I looked around the old temple. My darkvision allowed me to see, but it was in greyscale. I could tell shapes, even recognize individuals, but things like color were lacking. There were some statues, perhaps depicting the elven gods, but I didn’t know any more than that. There could have been paintings and murals on the walls, or they could have been flat marble, for all I knew. Once things were settled, I’d have the temple looked at, and maybe restored.

It wasn’t until we got to the main altar of the temple that anything changed. Three undead Knights were there, in a triangle formation. They appeared to be holding a barrier in place, a golden orb of light that had a form hiding within it.

Knight of the Order
Human Deathless Knight Male
Level 50 Spellblade (Fighter) / Priest

All three were hybrid fighter/casters, it seemed, which is why they were keeping the barrier in place, instead of Sir Dumbass, I guessed. At any rate, it seemed like their attention was fully on keeping the thing up. I looked to Hrozne, catching hir eye, and then nodded my head at Sir Dumbass with a grin.

Hrozne caught my meaning, and grinned in return. Looking at hir new slave, shi said, “OK, Renny, I want you to go and kill those three. Don’t stop until all three have been destroyed.”

“Curse you, Necromancer! Your actions condemn you to the fire! In this life or the next, I promise you that I will have my revenge upon you, and all your kind!” The knight was not happy, but had no choice but to take his greatsword and bring the holy blade down on each of his fellows in turn, destroying them while the rest of us went and picked up the loot. Most was nice, but not worth keeping for myself or my group. I’d toss it in the guild vault. But there were a couple gems.

Light of Hope
Type
Scimitar
Rank
Rare
Damage
80 – 140
Damage Type
Holy
Forged from mithril and quenched in holy water blessed by priests of warrior dieties, this weapon is a massive boon to those who fight on the side of the heavens against the lower planes. Evil characters cannot bear its touch.
Requires: Level 50
Requires: Good Alignment

+120 Attack
+10 STR, +10 DEX
Imbued: Blessed – Deals x2 damage to creatures with Evil alignment. Deals x4 damage to Evil Outsiders.
Enchanted: Brilliant Energy – Weapon ignores nonliving material. Ignores worn armor. Blade ineffective against Undead and Constructs.

Blessing of Pelor
Type
Ring
Rank
Uncommon
This gold ring is blessed by a priest of Pelor, and has been given a portion of divine power because of that.
Requires: Deity - Pelor

+20 WIS
Cure Light Wounds – Heal touched creature for 2 HP per user’s level. (Heal for 4 HP per user level if user has Divine Magic at Advanced or higher.) Useable 1/min.
Daylight – Creates sphere of pure daylight, radius 40’. 1/hour. Duration 10 min.
Enchanted: Purity – Wearer is immune to nonmagical poisons and diseases.

Angel’s Wings
Type
Cloak
Rank
Rare
This cloak, fashioned to look like a pair of white feathered wings, is a rare item that, on command, transforms into angelic wings, allowing the wearer to fly.

+25 CHA
Angel Wings – On command, Fly at speed equal to land speed. Cost: 10 MP, 1 MP/sec

Now sure, the first two were pretty much useless to my group, but the reason I wanted them was for Enchantment purposes. I wanted to learn how to make the enchantments on them, but I also thought it would be possible to change or transmute the enchantments. Perhaps corrupting the ‘good’ items would allow them to be used by my party? It was worth a thought.

At any rate, the barrier was falling, revealing a sleeping dragon lying before the altar.



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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Chapter 29 - On War

Captain Afl was sitting across the table in the conference room with me as Wraith Group prepared for our (now) customary role as scouts for the fleet. He was still trying to come to grips with the realities of what Sanctuary represented. But then, he came from the Core, where groups like Aprico spanned multiple systems, and had been in power for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years.

Miszo was here, too, because I wanted her to give a ‘nonhuman’ view on what humans, especially Sanctuary humans, were like to the Gothan captain. She, too, had been shocked at our actions the first few engagements, but had settled down once she got used to it. Or she was better at hiding things than I gave her credit for.

“Captain, you must understand that Humans are not like other species in the Known Galaxy. You know that, once a species reaches a certain point, they tend to settle into certain roles that dominate their culture. Brekthals are known for our artists, even our engineers and architects have an artistic flair, producing buildings and ships that are works of art while still being functional. Rithenalese are known for their practical, efficient administrative works, their part of the Empire running like a well-lubricated machine. It is the same in the rest of the galaxy, no?”

Captain Afl nodded slowly, not seeing where this was going. “Yes, and Gothans are known for being shiphandlers and warriors, which is why we comprise the majority of Aprico’s navy. What is the point of this? What do humans specialize in?”

“Quite simply, they don’t.”

“What, you expect me to believe that this system was wiped clean by a child race?” The captain blinked, as he realized that he might have insulted me, but I waved it off with a smile, and motioned for Miszo to continue. I liked hearing the feline marine describe humans to other aliens.

“No, though they just got into space recently, they are not one of the Young Races. They are an anomaly. Much of the Rithenalese Empire believes that the Asguard guarded their planet for so long not for their protection, but for ours. You see, humans specialize in adaptation.”

“Adaptation? What do you mean?”

“Captain, if you would?”

I nodded, and then reentered the conversation. “You see, humans don’t have set roles or communal infrastructure. We are individualists, and quite competitive. This competition takes many forms, be it in politics, business, sports, entertainment, or war. But that’s simply when there is no external threat. Bring an external threat to bear, like an alien empire invading us, and we close ranks to punish the fool. The biggest mistake any group could make is attacking humanity head on, for that simply unites us, and the stars themselves shudder when humanity unites.”

“She isn’t exaggerating. During what humans call the Contact War, they caused several stars to go supernova, all but driving one of the races of the Empire into extinction.” Afl looked sufficiently shocked at that. While some races ascended (or evolved into energy beings) and other died out naturally, it was an extremely rare thing for the kind of genocide we were discussing to be perpetuated in interstellar wars. The last time a spacefaring race had driven another into deliberate extinction was over two hundred thousand years ago.

“Humans have a concept called ‘total war’. There are skirmishes, and small-scale fights, even small, limited wars between neighbors. But sometimes one must take any means necessary in order to fight a war. In such a war, there are no civilians, no noncombatants. There are only soldiers, and those who support their fight. And we strike at them all, without mercy. Because, in the long run, fewer lives are lost this way.”

“Fewer lives? You just wiped out an entire system, with the better part of four fleets defending it!”

“Yes, we did. And compare the lives lost to this battle with the potential losses if a prolonged war were fought between ourselves and the Thaolians. A war that might span years, or even decades. And don’t think that war was anything but inevitable. The only reason they haven’t attacked us before is because we weren’t nearby, and there were several other species between our sections of space.”

“Today, we killed a system. But tomorrow, the next group who wishes to challenge us may seek to do so through economic means, or at least low-level tactics, rather than promising our destruction, even as propaganda. They will understand that we respond to such threats proactively, and with great vigor. And lives, on both sides, will be spared as a result.”

Captain Afl shook his head, clearly not convinced, but willing to put it aside for the moment. “And this has something to do with your specie’s ‘adaptability’?”

“Yes. You see, humans are really quite good at taking things others have made, and adapting it for their own use, even improving on the designs. We can use both hyperadvanced technology and magic, and are one of the few species crazy enough to combine the two. Any challenge we come across, if we do not already have a tool to combat it, we make one, even if we have to jury-rig something out of spare parts from six different machines to do it.”

“That is the kind of people Aprico picked a fight with because we wouldn’t sell them our weapons tech. And because of that, Aprico my father has declared total war against Aprico. Anyone who stands in our way will be cut down, and we will only stop when Aprico begs for peace, unconditionally.”


(Afl POV)

I shook my head, dismayed at what I was hearing from the human female and her Brekthal subordinate. What had those damn Aprican administrators gotten them into? These people were not simple fringe system newcomers who needed to be taught their place in the universe. They were lunatics who decided that they didn’t need to work by anyone else’s rules. And they had weapons that terrified him to no end. Weapons my ships could barely defend against. Between the initial attack and the surrender, my science officer had given me the disturbing news. The weapons they were trying to capture were far more than anyone in Command knew. These humans had weaponized negative matter!

I took a breath to calm my thoughts, and then looked back at the human captain. “Is there any way to reduce the damage to my people?”

Suddenly, I was confronted by a wild Nozaat hunter! Or whatever the human equivalent was. I had thought that I knew the female’s ruthlessness before, but now I saw a predatory look in her eye, like she was hunting something. And that something was me. It took all my will not to step back.

Then, in a voice that sounded less sharp than her normal voice, and yet all the more terrifying for it, Captain Frosty said, “Tell me everything you know about Aprico’s structure. Gothans are known for military matters, yes? Then what other races play a primary part of Aprico’s structure. Who are their scientists, their salesmen, their strategists and administrators? Where do those races reside? What are Aprico’s primary manufacturing worlds?”

I blinked, wondering why anyone would need information that was so easily available. She hadn’t even asked for individual names, or defense systems… Oh. They weren’t planning on much ground fighting, not when orbital bombardment was easier. And they were from a far-off Arm, they wouldn’t have access to the datanets of the Core. If I talked, I’d be condemning who knows how many to their pyres, but if I said nothing, then these humans would simply proceed to wipe out planets until they finished making Aprico pay.

Was this what Frosty meant by ‘saving lives’? I sighed, and said, “Very well, I will tell you what I know…”


(Frosty POV)

I was back on the Harbinger with Daddy, the fleet Admiral, and the commander of the Assault Group, going over the intel we’d gained from the prisoners and Aprico ships. I pointed to the star map that the Aprico computers had provided us, detailing the known jump points for about 50% of the galaxy. “Given what Captain Afl had do say, I suggest we split the fleet once we get to the Tsukura System.”

Daddy looked over to me, a smile on his face. “Oh, and why should we do that, Captain Mollen?”

I grinned back at him, and said, “Well, Consul, it seems Aprico is divided with different species taking different primary roles in their corporation. The Gothans, like Afl, comprise the majority of their military fleet. They’re solid warriors and good ship handlers, but, well, they have been fighting enemies with similar weapons and tactics for too long. The Illyians are their primary merchants, and gather as much of the wealth of Aprico as ‘management’ allows. They’re the ones that came and tried to buy from us before, but we shut them down and kicked them out of Sanctuary. The Komt are the researchers. Brilliant minds, apparently, their whole group does wonders with technology. And then there’s the Apricans. They’re the managers and strategists, and the ones who run the whole show.”

“And why would you have us divide the fleet?”

“Because branching off from Tsukura, we have three excellent attack opportunities. If the main fleet continues on course, they’ll enter the Aprican home systems, which will be heavily defended, and will be where Aprican leadership is centered. Since it was the Apricans that decided they needed our weapons no matter the cost, wiping out their system would not only satisfy vengeance, but it would spell doom for the corporation as a whole, as the whole thing would shatter without them.”

“In the meantime, there are two other targets of opportunity, diverging off from Tsukura. You have the primary Komt worlds through this gate, with several research and design facilities that could prove useful. I’d suggest sending the Assault group to raid and gather data, prototypes, and scientists. And on the other side, we have the Illyians. I could take Wraith Group through here, and play privateer, capturing or destroying enemy merchantmen, and wiping out enemy logistics.”


My dad smiled. “And while you’re doing that, you’ll also force the enemy to divide their fleets to protect all those valuable and vulnerable facilities, or have them admit that they can’t do both that and keep us away from their core worlds. For a defense company, they would lose an incredible amount of face over that. Which means they’ll have to respond. Very well, we got a game plan. Now let’s work out the details.”



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