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Thimble

[RP] The Fall of Storm Haven Keep

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A cold wind stirred above the white snow. It swirled and eddied before finding its way to the precipice, coalescing into an invisible wave as it tumbled over the edge. Down it went, leaving the peak in its wake, flowing around trees as it descended. When it reached the bottom, it sped out from the base of the mountain, heading south, losing intensity as it ran into obstacle after obstacle. Finally, nearly depleted in strength, the last tendrils reached out before dying and managed to barely move a banner on the walls of the Sunset Keep.

Dark eyes surrounded by fur took notice of the movement, as they took notice of everything in sight. This vessel had revealed to Thimble even the most skilled assassins with its eyes, once thought to be a curse by Gaea, the Earth Mother. Now prized for their eyes above all else, Elken had become the vessel of choice for Thimble when seeking to expose the sin of his enemies to the Flame of Truth.

He had wrestled with the White Crow for what seemed an eternity. Finally it had begun to struggle less, tiring from the constant fight against the magical energies harnessed deep within the Corvus Citadel. Soon the Citadel would control its powers completely, strengthening their forces, further solidifying their victory on the battlefield. Already Thimble had been able to siphon some of the power of the White Crow, giving the Sergeants of the Citadel the real time combat intelligence they needed to command successfully. Soon, he would be able to infuse the Citadel’s Artificers, greatly increasing the efficiency of their operations.

The present suddenly rushed back to him as Duffy gave the order to move northwest, skirting the mountain on the way to the portal to Calinor. Without hesitation, Thimble leapt from the walls of the Sunset Keep, landing with the agility only an Elken could achieve, immediately transitioning into a sprint. The order was unexpected; the baneful trees hadn’t even spawned. Duffy was taking a risk with this move, but being bold was often necessary when fighting Balance. And, truthfully, Order had in recent weeks shown itself to be quite formidable as well. The Death Alliance leaving the freedom of Chaos for the rigidity of Order made no sense to Thimble, but as adversaries they had earned the respect of the Citadel, and it felt like that respect had been returned in kind.

Bounding up the rocks below the portal to Calinor, Thimble caught a brief glimpse of Grimmel as the scout stepped through. Immediately the report reached them that the Free City was clear of enemies, and the order was given to proceed. They waited only seconds on the other side; the army of Corvus Citadel, for that was what it was becoming, had practiced squad movements and had become efficient at force projection. Grimmel had already reported the all clear on the other side of the portal, so when Duffy began giving the order the entire force was through the portal before he could finish.

Swiftly they raced as one cohesive unit along the road through Thracia toward Storm Haven Keep. Stilling their breaths while positioned behind a hill near the keep, the forces of Corvus Citadel managed to remain hidden only a hundred yards from the walls. While looking for the flat ground necessary to perform the summoning ritual for the mighty siege engines, Duffy noticed a breach in the wall and quickly consulted the Sergeants to devise an attack plan. Mighty Vanboozled, grizzled veteran of the Citadel, suggested an immediate attack without waiting, to try to take advantage of the boon presented to them. The order was given, and five full squads of warriors streamed into the breach, pivoted left and flowed into the corridor inside the exterior fortifications. Emerging from the ramp at the top into a hail of arrows and seeing their desired avenue cut off by a ruined bridge, Thimble and Duffy, brothers in arms, ran along the top of the wall toward their secondary objective: a bridge, still in tact, to the left of the inner keep. The order was given for a small group to break off at the back to distract the Order defenders as the main force cut down guards left and right. Unfortunately, the enemy was not so easily fooled. When Thimble and Duffy reached the end of the bridge, with their brothers and sisters streaming across behind them, they ran headlong into the bulk of the enemy force. Worse still, Order had the high ground, and with great defensive positioning. Thimble could only assume that Chroma, who had shown his tactical cunning, was leading the defense.

In an attempt to avoid total annihilation, a hasty retreat was called. Their numbers cut in half, Thimble and the remaining warriors of Corvus Citadel maintained discipline as they retreated down another ramp, taking shelter inside the fortified walls. That allowed Chroma, or whoever was leading, to order the defenders to advance across the bridge and attack from the top of the ramp, while splitting their force and attacking simultaneously through the courtyard into the chamber below. Performing the incantations and required movements as fast as he could, Thimble summoned tornadoes to toss the enemy left and right, granting a momentary reprieve to the now very small attacking force. That reprieve lasted only a moment, though, for the heavy hitters of the enemy were within their ranks. With a mighty bleat, Thimble charged, using his antlers to knock three of the enemy away. Instinct took over, his movements faster than his mind could even comprehend. He summoned a blast wave, blowing several of the enemy away and lighting them on fire. He then leapt into the enemy, pivoted on his hooves, and immolated an entire group as he teleported back into the chamber.

It was a last ditch effort, however, and ultimately proved to be futile. Despite valiant efforts by Thimble and his brothers and sisters, they fell to the overwhelming forces of Order. At Duffy’s command, they flew back as crow spirits, recovered control of their vessels, and formed up on the other side of another hill close to the keep. Once all forces had been accounted for, they began an ordered retreat.

Then, suddenly, Duffy received intelligence that the powerful forces of the Winterblades had been spotted near the keep, on the other side. Immediately the Corvus Citadel forces turned and advanced hastily on the nearest baneful tree. Arriving in moments, they found a squad of Order hacking at it with all the effort they could muster, clearly hoping to destroy it before anyone could interrupt them. It didn’t work. Five full squads under the banner of the Citadel quickly overwhelmed the squad attacking the tree, and then the healers began immediately healing it.

Before they could bring the tree back to full health, word reached them that the Winterblades had done the same thing at another tree, and that the Death Alliance had retreated back into the inner keep for a last stand. Grimmel, who was able to use the shadows to stay hidden, relayed information as the Winterblades streamed into the keep, killed off any remaining guards that got in their way, and ran straight to the inner keep. He described a quick battle in which the defenders of the lower room were overrun almost immediately, then gave the recommendation Duffy was waiting for: if Corvus Citadel were to attack again, it would be at that moment or never.

With a mighty roar, minotaurs and half-giants running in front, Corvus Citadel’s attacking force charged through the breach and straight into the inner keep, behind Balance. They ascended the ramps swiftly and saw an unbelievable sight at the top: the Death Alliance had repelled the Winterblades assault. Hesitating only a moment, Thimble began firing tornadoes at the small groups of Order left in the room with the Tree of Life. He charged with his antlers, blew up the enemy with blast waves, and summoned more tornadoes. Over and over, his pyrotechnics and antler antics forces the enemy off the edge and into the courtyard below.

It looked like Corvus Citadel was going to be victorious in the pitched three way battle. Until, of course, the Winterblades streamed in, having regrouped from their earlier defeat. Corvus Citadel was able to hold them off for awhile, but in the end the Winterblades and their vassals were able to destroy the Tree of Life and plant their own Golden Apple.

Corvus Citadel’s attack had failed. The Death Alliance, and the rest of Order, had lost their keep, but not to the forces of Chaos. For the first time in the Trial of Illara, the Winterblades controlled two of the three keeps. Still, even though Duffy’s plan was bold, Thimble knew that it was better to have tried and failed than to have not shown up at all. After all, Corvus Citadel had earned a reputation for not backing down from a fight without good reason, and they had proven that again today.
 

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