Fighting back the invasion

Britannians seem able to adapt well. Dragons in Skara Brae and Trinsic - now they're considered hunting grounds. Yew and Cove now seem like orc cities, as if they've always been.

That's why when Kalis Sevren summoned the Royal Guard once more, it was a bit of a shock to the system. There was something wrong in Britannia? Why, we had grown complacent!

The call wasn't answered by many at first. "Once ye hear the reason why ye have all been summoned, ye will wish there were more of us", he replied to those full of bravado, saying that the fifteen or so gathered would be enough for any task.

While he waited for others to arrive, I quickly jumped to the town crier at the West Britain Bank and whispered that perhaps he shouldn't wait for people to ask for news, that he should yell the news loud and far! Whether that was the reason the ranks started to fill up or not, I'm not sure, but soon a few score of warriors were present, and Kalis began.

"The reason for calling ye all here this eve," he said gravely. "We have been preparing for this moment for quite some time now." He paused to let the gravity of his statement sink in.

"With the help of many the barricades were constructed, so as to help in the defense of Britain. It seems that this eve we shall be testing those defenses."

"A force of unknown numbers is approaching Britain, but I wish to defend two of the passes in the hopes that we can keep them at bay."

There were murmurs through the crowd that echoed my own thoughts. Our group would be split in two, just as the invaders would want.

"I shall require one force to head out west towards the pass that leads to Skara Brae, and another to head north, to defend the pass near the Dungeon of Despise."

Kalis was to open moongates to both locations for the defenders to use. I asked my guildmaster to wait in the throne room as I followed half of the Royal Guard into one gate and quickly marked a rune there. The invasion had already started, for there inside the barracades were the first signs of battle.

Back to the throne room, the rest of us entered the second gate, near the Despise pass. The area was thick with orcs and, it was good to see, their dead bodies. As in any large battle, there were casualties on our side as well, but the Royal Guard has strong magic on its side, and the fallen are quickly brought back to fight again.

Many tactics were used, and it was obvious that we had many combat veterans on our side. Poison and fire fields were used to stop the pesky orc scouts and orc bombers that would fill the narrow pass, and more direct approaches were used on the orc brutes, ettins and ogre lords that swarmed through the valley.

During a brief respite, I realized I had forgotten about the Skara Brae pass, and quickly went to check it out.

A similar scene at the pass opened up, and I was sure that further down the road there would be as many bodies as at the northern pass. I noted that Kalis Sevren was at this pass, and was about to speak to him when a dozen titans were magically transported to this very spot. Being unqualified to stop them -- half a dozen is probably my limit -- I recalled out to see how the northern pass was faring.

The pass in the north was piled knee-high in orcish bodies, which led me to believe that either the Skara Brae defenders were more efficient that the Despise ones, or that the Despise defenders had the worst of the invasion.

The battle went on and on, and even when the orc numbers seemed to be increasing, the living barracade of Britannian defenders were becoming better and better and halting their progress. Soon the grass in the Forest of Samlethe was covered in stinking orcish ichor.

With this battle well in hand, I made another trip to the Skara Brae pass, only to find it abandoned. Where had the others gone? Had they been defeated? Had the battle pushed north towards Yew?

A lone moongate stood waiting at the western end of the pass, so through I went. I was back at the Despise pass! Sure enough, fighters from the western barracades were streaming over the mountain to join their comrades.

With the full force of the Royal Guard present, the northern front was soon defeated. While checking for fallen warriors inside cyclopean corpses (and shifting piles of gold from them to ensure no one was beneath), I realized the sound of battle had ebbed, and quickly went to find the others.

"That is all you have for me? Words? Pathetic words?!" said a disturbingly familiar voice. There on a mountain ledge stood Belo Ondariva, enemy of Britannia, with Lord Dupre, one of our heroes!

I had missed the words of which he spoke, but was drawn back to the madman's rant as he laughed from above.

"See Dupre - you protect the weak," he said quietly, patting Dupre on the shoulder. A frown crossed Dupre's face, but no other response came from the great man beside Ondariva.

"He is mine now," the foreigner continued, now facing us and returning to his hard, cruel voice. "He won't be helping any of you at all. Why, he could not protect a lamb!" Ondariva sneered out at all of us gathered. "Which all of you are!"

Many in the Royal Guard called him out, daring him to bring himself down from that mountain ledge and fight them.

"None of you are an honorable foe," he snorted. "Perhaps... yes. Perhaps it is best to awaken your ancestors!"

This was not something we wanted to hear. The leader of the invasion started to convulse and gyrate as he started a bizarre and disturbing ritual. It was obvious that dark magic was at work, and none present -- I hoped -- knew how to perform this vile spell. And what would the result be?

From out of the sky, over the mountain tops, came an enormous beast, easily noticeable not because it blocked out the sun, but because of the way it warped it, for its very skin was translucent, much like the shadow wyrms that have taken up roost in Trinsic and Skara Brae. Indeed, this creature was similar in some ways to the dragonkind of Britannia, but in other ways, it was more serpentine than its relatives.

The creature, the "Waker of the Dead" as Belo Ondariva called it, started its trek through the mountain pass, unfazed by our presence or our attempts to stop it. Only through special highlighting magic could the creature be easily seen, for it blended with the very shadows of the mountain.

As the creature entered the forests north of Britain, it became obvious to everyone which ancestors this Waker of the Dead meant to raise -- the ones at rest in the Britain Cemetery. While the spirits in that graveyard have always been a little feisty, they have never been a threat to the citizens of Britain that stayed within the city walls.

We all knew, though, that this creature wasn't going to simply bring a few skeletons to bear, and thus it had to be stopped. But how? It seemed impervious!

The Waker made it to the graveyard unscathed, and sure enough, powerful undead were raised. Mighty liches of ages past walked Britannia, and they were clearly upset over their interment.

The magic forces involved in raising such an army, as well as the spells being thrown about by the lich horde, were enough to cause the very fabric of reality to warp, for it seemed that I was walking through molasses, barely able to take a step every second or so. Even so, the Royal Guard took to defending the land's namesake city and laid their ancestors to rest once more. Once the slowing effect started to abate, I was able to enter the graveyard to try and help, but I arrived just in time to see the final blow upon the Waker of the Dead! They had found its weakness! Perhaps it had lost its invulnerability through the act of summoning the dead?

After the dragon creature fell, Kalis suggested we return to the northern pass, to see if Ondariva had done anything else during this distraction.

Back in the pass, a few large Orc Taskmasters were encountered, creatures that instill fear in the likes of me, for they're unaffected by my persuasive music. Those who rely on steel and magic, however, were undaunted, and cleaned up the remaining orc presence.

After the rest of the area was checked for any stragglers, Kalis brought everyone back to the throne room of the Castle Britain, and thanked everyone for their hard work.

"Well, I must say... I have not seen that many dead orcs in quite a long time." The smile on his face soon faded. "Despite our victory this eve, it seems there is something that troubles me. Dupre..."

He frowned for a moment before continuing. "I am glad to see that he is alive. I wonder what Belo has done to him?" He let out a sigh, and our leader's weariness finally showed through. "For every answer we find, another question comes up. I shall have to confer with Clainin to see if we might find a means of dispelling this hold that Belo has over Dupre."

When asked if we would have to fight Dupre, Kalis Sevren's face went very sad, and slightly worried. "I hope not."

"To fight Dupre would be ... unwise."