Lord of Azure Flame Chapter 24x: Fires of Liberation
Posted 02 May 2011 - 06:52 PM
The Imperial throne room, was unlike a typical royal domain. It lacked the decorative stylings, drapes, and numerous columns of ordinary royal rooms. Instead the stone walls were merely lined with priceless weaponry and the occasional portrait, while the throne itself was had a blood red rug leading down from the throne, and off around the corner to the entrance of the room. The throne room was nearly empty, and only the Emperor and his wife were present at the moment. The large room had one window off to the side which the Empress was gazing out of as she spoke to her husband who sat on the throne tapping his finger against the arm rest. The look on her face was one of slight concern, and the one on his, was of anger.
Empress: It has never happened quite like this before.
Empress: They send their forces our way as if they know what it is they are doing. Yet we sit here knowing full well that victory will be ours. Is the enemy truly this foolish or has their little magician friend come up with a way to challenge our position? Many do not seem to care, and I suppose they all make good points, but I wonder still.
Denisov: Is this about that tremor from earlier?
Empress: That isn't all. I feel as if something is shifting in their favor, but I cannot place my finger on it. Call it a feeling I suppose.
Denisov: When this is over I will have Ivanko's surrender or his head. Either one will do. That's all there is to it.
Empress: I suppose then only Orteiga and the archers will be having any fun today. The rest of us will just have to sit back and watch.
Denisov: That's correct. If they wanted to challenge us they should have come up with a better strategy than this.
Suddenly another small tremor rumbled throughout the complex, and had the Empress looking down at her feet. Denisov only glanced down for a split second. He wouldn't let his wife see him worrying about this new tremor. It had him genuinely worried since Zaftra wasn't known for earthquakes of any kind.
Denisov: (Could it be the king of demons ... or is it something else?)
Ivanko's small group ended their rest and were again warped, this time much further. They reappeared within Zaftra on some unstable and high ground on the other side of the mountains that marked the dying nation's borders. A snow storm was finally leaving the area, but the group was still being blasted by it. It wasn't far to Kalten now, and they had almost caught up with the main aerial force.
Ivanko: From here, we fly. Mount up.
Irina: Iso, do you remember what I showed you during the break?
Iso: Yeah, I think I'll be okay.
Irina: Careful though, you have to be alert and clear when you're directing Kiev or he'll make a mistake. I'm pretty sure if you can't send him a clear message he'll just follow along behind me anyway so if you don't need to go anywhere specific just let Kiev do what he wants.
Iso: You're sure he'll follow you?
Irina: ... yeah. I think I know my own wyvern by now.
With that, Iso mounted Kiev playing the rider for the first time, and Stephanie got behind him while O'Donnel rode with Ixion atop Stratos. They waited for the winds to die down and the skies to clear up before they finally took off. Two hours later, they met up with hundreds upon hundreds of wyvern riders and lords in the skies above ruined cities. Ivanko's group joined the massive formation and took up position right at the front. Iso and Irina couldn't help but look back at all the familiar faces. This was their purpose, what everything from the beginning was all about? It was a bit overwhelming for the two siblings. None of them realized it, but four major areas around the capital were shaking violently as the gigasi tunneled underground carrying the true main force of the IM inside them. All of their forces would reach Kalten within the hour ....
Posted 02 May 2011 - 07:28 PM
When the call came to fly, he did so, directing Namid as best he could. The mountain wyvern was startled by how cold it was at first, but had gotten used to it much more quickly than his shivering rider. The massive army of wyverns and riders was astonishing. (Is this...what we do? Breeding and selling wyverns ro make such enormous flocks? Each rider and each wyvern...) It was awe-inspiring to be surrounded by so many partners flying all at once.
When they saw the fortress up ahead, Tas' breath was taken away even further. (Just where am I...? I never expected to see something like this... It's like I'm in a story... That place is impossible to reach unless you're flying. This is amazing.) It took a little while, but that was when it hit him: the ones in that fortress were the ones who would try to shoot them down.
The reality of it turned awe to fear and Tas rode over to where the ones he was familliar with were, flying somewhat lower than them. "I'm going to start flying lower to keep out of the way now," he called up to inform them before flying only a couple-dozen feet above the ground, keeping with the airborne army above him. (I don't know what will happen... I hope everyone will be ok...) In spite of his hopes, he knew a painful moment in history was about to occur. It had to be done and that was all there was to it.
"Oh? Sounds like the wind's dying down. Haha! Lets stay in here for a little while longer, though," a purple-haired woman mentioned to her horse. They were holed up in a cave made of a fallen pillar in the ruins at the foot of the mountain upon which Kalton's proud citadel stood.
The horse didn't respond. He just wanted something fresh to eat and that was very hard to come-by in these frozen lands...
"Oh, hey, what's that?" she wondered aloud as she looked out from her and her horse's shelter into the sky. "Looks like...a lot of flying things..."
Posted 02 May 2011 - 08:28 PM
"<Then I just have to worry about you,>" the elder Borodin grumbled. "<Why you couldn't just marry someone for political power instead of joining the military, I'll never know...>"
"<I'm too competent for that,>" Borodin replied, nearly chuckling at the allusion to the argument they'd been having since she'd turned eighteen. It had been bitter previously, but had mostly just turned into something to occasionally grumble about. No time to reminisce though... the general turned on her heel and left the room, striding down the hall as quickly as she could do so while retaining her imposing air (not that she was in much danger of losing it, really). A stop by her own quarters was in order, and she emerged minutes later, properly outfitted with chainmail, carrying her greatcoat. Her saber, as usual, was at her side; she would be picking up her plate mail and broadsword once she'd briefed her troops, though she hoped the heavy weaponry would not be necessary.
Then it was up the stairs to the room where her top officers waited. She'd given them, and many of the lower officers at a later time, orders to be ready, but resting; not knowing a better time estimate for the attack than "soon" meant they'd have to be ready at any time. There were also orders in place to stand aside if she gave the word; depending on what this was, those orders might have to be carried out.
A quick check as she entered the room informed her that they were all there; Kouriatov didn't appear to be present, but a second glance revealed him lurking in plain sight as he was wont to do. "<Well, I believe this is it,>" she began as Glinka and Ilyushin saluted properly; Kouriatov saluted a second later when Ilyushin discreetly kicked him in the shin. If he wasn't good at what he did, Borodin would have had to take disciplinary action. "<Watchers are in place, I assume?>"
All three of her primary officers nodded, each indicating a handful of small spirit dolls; they were keeping in communication with various sentries. "<Any interesting reports-- below, above, or otherwise?>"
"<Nothing but the shaking getting stronger, ma'am,>" Kouriatov reported; he was in charge of Borodin's force within the palace.
"<Nothing in the sky at all yet,>" Ilyushin added. Glinka merely shook his head; his troops on the walls and siege engines wouldn't be seeing the other two hadn't anyway.
"<Well, I suppose we wait, then,>" Borodin concluded. She was trying to think of the best place to station herself... most likely on the walls or near the siege engines, if she ended up needing to talk to the mercenaries, it would likely be the most opportune place. If any of her officers needed her, she had a spirit doll for each.
"<Shaking's getting worse,>" came a voice from one of the spirit dolls as she thought. Borodin raised an eyebrow.
"<Take your men up a level or two, and any civilians if they're down there,>" she ordered Kouriatov. "<Get to your posts-- whatever happens, it will likely be soon.>" The officers nodded, saluted, and left, splitting off once they reached the stairs. Borodin turned to her assistant, who'd been there the whole time. "<Frederikov, I'm headed out to the ballistae to take a look at things. Go get my unit; by the time they're ready I ought to be back.>" While the vast majority of her troops were under her main officers, she had a hand-picked group of her own; they ought to be ready to move at the drop of a hat, and all Iris would have to do would be convey the order. Donning her coat, Borodin headed for the nearest exit to the walls to see what was going on.
Edited by Kiryn, 31 October 2011 - 12:13 PM.
Posted 02 May 2011 - 10:47 PM
When Tas began to descend, Levski called out to him.
Lev: Tas, be careful! Ballista fire can still nail you if you fly too closely to us! Stay at least a thousand feet below the fighting and circle the mountain or just use the forests for cover! DO NOT follow our maneuvers, Okay?!
Irina put her visor back down and readied herself. She could see Kalten's ruins below them and the massive mountain top fortress was just coming into view.
Ixion: They should be breaking through any minute now. I can feel them ...
Ivanko: READY UUUUUUUP!!!
Those behind that could hear began cheering, and since the ones around them were cheering, even those that couldn't hear Ivanko knew what was going on and followed suit. The whole formation was in an uproar. Irina kept silent. She wasn't the chest pounding type. Neither was Lev but he joined in, seeing how he was second in command of their forces, he had an obligation to not let his mood affect their moral and hollered along with the rest of them raising his axe high above his head.
Iso: ... this is insane.
Irina: Iso, let Kiev do the flying for now if you're coming with us.
Iso: How come?
Irina: I know this. I was trained for this kind of fighting just not on this scale and I know what kind of attack we're about to launch on these guys. We're going to be moving as a big group to stall them until our main force hits. That means we follow my uncle flying in unison until they force us to disperse, but if Ivanko performs a certain maneuver we're all to form up behind him again. We form up, then break off and bolt waves come in. It messes with their aim and forces them to shoot at us randomly instead of picking out individuals. It just gives us a chance to move closer and keep them busy so not as many of them are prepared when the main forces break through. I don't think you're ready for that kind of flying. You might have a collision.
Iso: What is this?
Irina: We'll be flying really close to each other, so just keep your head down and don't give Kiev any directions. He'll know what to do.
Iso: ... seriously ...
Irina: Once the main force breaks through, we're probably going to swamp the ballistas and take them out, and from there it's close quarters fighting.
Irina sounded sad as she explained things to her brother. It occurred to her again that her years of training were for this. She hadn't been briefed, and she still knew exactly what was going on and what her part in it was. She'd seen this numerous times before, and all those images coming back had her looking down at Nikita's saddle glad her visor was on. She didn't want to be seen like this, again.
As the wyvern brigade made their approach, the rumblings grew ever stronger, and to the point where objects that weren't secure began to rock and eventually fall over, or off of everything. The entire complex was now alert. The scouts that spotted the approaching wyverns had issues of their own. With the shaking going on the approaching rebels seemed almost insignificant. In the throne room, Denisov held to his throne and scoffed.
Denisov: Either this is the work of the king of demons ... or Ivanko has found a way to shake us at our foundation long enough to cripple our aim. No matter, we will still shoot down him and every last one of his idiotic revolutionaries.
Empress: I can barely keep my footing now.
The Empress quickly took off the heels she had been wearing under her dress and held them in hand. The stone flooring was cold in most places but chose balance over attire.
Posted 03 May 2011 - 12:06 AM
(Is it just me or is the ground shaking?) Tas wasn't sure if what he was seeing below him was an effect of his hangover or the warp or if it was actually happening.
"The flying things look like wyverns now," the woman in the ruins informed her horse. The ground was shaking something fierce, too. "Oh, stay on the ground like you're supposed to, ground!" she chastized, stomping her foot to teach it a lesson, "You're making it hard to concentrate!"
Posted 03 May 2011 - 05:29 PM
Retiring to her study she'd flipped absently through an Elfire tome, eyes flitting across the pages but not really taking in the contents, instead sorting things out in her mind. Sure, she'd heard rumors of Ivanko's mercenary troupe, you would have had to be deaf not to, but rumors were just rumors. They couldn't possibly get to the core of things. Still... the General's plan was sound. No point dying for a dynasty that had outlived itself. That certainly wasn't why she'd signed up. Hell the military was pretty much one of the only ways to afford to eat. Wrinkling her nose, she amended that last thought. One of the only dignified ways to afford to eat. She was lucky to have been born in Kalten, and had this option. No way would she consider being a dirt farmer. a glacier miner, or a bed-warmer for hire. Sure, Iris enjoyed the company of a man as much as the next gal, but that wasn't something you do for a living. It wasn't something you tended to do much of at all in the military for that matter... not with the types of men that seemed drawn to it, or maybe she'd just had a long run of bad luck in that department. Too many macho types, overly impressed with their own abilities for her taste. Or just... the weird ones. It's not like she could put her finger on it, and it's not that he wasn't easy on the eyes, but a man like Kouriatov just... had one of those auras. You could never really feel comfortable when he was in the room. He wasn't the only one for sure, but being one of Borodin's trusted subordinates the adjutant had more contact with him than any other examples could come to mind.
Iris's gaze stopped to rest on the hourglass she'd laid upon the desk. Enough sand had flowed by now, it was about time to reconvene. No new news yet, but the entire fortress was on edge and regular meetings were sensible. Fingering the spirit doll laying silently in her uniform pocket briefly, linked to her superior of course, she collected the flow of her thoughts that had been dispersed. Closing the Elfire tome deliberately, its crisp sound as it shut a sort of punctuation to the end of the period of rest, she'd tucked it under her arm and returned to the General's office.
The next meeting had started out routine, no news to report all around. Not from Borodin, nor from the three other officers, and she'd certainly nothing to contribute herself. As it was drawing to an end though, gearing up for an inevitable another dismissal of "<Rest at the ready, reconvene at XX00,"> one of the General's spirit dolls reported that the odd tremors that had been occasionally disrupting the fortress were intensifying. That was as good a cue as any. The time for resting was over. Now they would fight. And then later... if things changed... well, they would still fight, but the end might be altered. Whatever happened, Iris would be following Borodin, and that was good enough.
The General left, headed for the ballistae, and leaving orders for her adjutant to alert her personal unit. Snapping a salut, Lt. Frederikov quickly replied in the affirmative, "<Right away, sir!>" Just a matter of knocking on a few doors, then returning to the General's quarters. Couldn't be simpler, right? Going about her business, she'd about finished the task assigned for her, and was climbing the stairs to the next floor when a real rumbler of a quake struck. The level of shaking was something she'd never before experienced, and despite there being a handrail, she wasn't accustomed to actually using the thing, finding it tended to slow her down more than provide any actual benefit. Legs suddenly not being in the right place for her center of gravity, they buckled and she pitched forwards, which was luckily up the stairs, earning her nasty knocks against her shins as they hit the sharp stone steps, and a scrape against her right temple as she fell to the side. Cursing, she waited for the trembling to diminish, it didn't seem it would fully subside, not any more, before pulling herself to her feet. Left hand now solidly on the rail, she slowly climbed to the landing, pressing a hastily recovered kerchief to her wound. She was a little relieved that the men she'd already alerted had gone straight to the General's quarters and hadn't seen her take the fall, as she was finishing rounding up the rest of them.
Hissing under her breath when she took a look at the kerchief to see that there was indeed some blood, though thankfully not much at all, she then sighed, and headed down the final corridor, to the last two members she needed to bring back. With luck there would be no further incident.
Edited by Balcerzak, 03 May 2011 - 05:36 PM.
Posted 03 May 2011 - 06:43 PM
A quick glance down showed avalanches down below. With the shaking, it wasn't surprising, and it ruled out climbers, but Borodin had to wonder what could be causing such a quake. They'd undoubtedly find out soon enough... she and her unit would need to get to the engines before it got too bad to walk. She turned and headed back inside, being careful with her footing.
As she neared the room where her unit was supposed to be meeting, dodging various people rushing past, she noticed a tall, lean figure striding through the crowds with purpose, not panic. She paused. Yes, he might have some idea... "<Lord Orteiga!>" she called, heading towards what appeared to be a fit, but aging human. "<Do you know what's causing the shaking?>"
The man shook his head. "<Something is disturbing this land. Deep in the ground ... something unnatural.>"
Cryptic as usual, Borodin thought. "<I suppose we'll find out when it arrives, then... you're heading to fight for the Imperial family now, I take it?>" she asked, as though she were sure of her own side herself.
"<I know not what is coming, but I will do what I can ... starting with those wyvern riders,>" Orteiga replied. It was apparent that he was anxious to continue on his way.
"<Very well... good luck, sir,>" Borodin replied, turning to return to her room. She did feel some remorse, knowing that if it came to having to support Ivanko's side Orteiga would likely fall; the old lizard was one of the few people in the imperial court actually worth talking to, she thought. But if it was necessary, to set up a regime that would actually help the people... then it was necessary.
She returned to the room were she'd been addressing her officers to find that her personal unit and assistant were there. Everyone was armed and dressed to deal with the cold; they needed no prompting. Out in the halls, people were panicking-- not her hand-picked soldiers. She noticed that Frederikov was limping a bit-- probably a quake-induced fall. "<Frederikov, are you all right? Grigori, help her out if she needs it, then we're moving.>" She donned her armor, picking up her broadsword. "<You've already been given your orders,>" she said simply. "<We move out.>" She turned and strode out the door, as purposefully as possible while avoiding falling as the floor bucked and twitched. She didn't look over her shoulder for her unit; she knew they'd be there. Ready to win the day for the people-- whichever leader that meant supporting-- she headed for the main cluster of siege engines on the southern wall.
Out on the wall, people were getting anxious. A few of the ballisticians already were setting up to aim; one of the newest recruits let loose a bolt that fell harmlessly below whatever might have been the target. "<Hold your fire!>" Borodin barked above the shrieking of the wind, instantly getting the attention of those around her. "<I'll give the order when they get within range,>" she instructed, adding in hand-signals to make sure that those furthest away got the message over the wind. She headed to the outermost walkway to watch; the mercenaries weren't within range to hit her yet.
Edited by Kiryn, 03 May 2011 - 06:53 PM.
Posted 03 May 2011 - 08:47 PM
Ivanko led the charge as the massive formation of riders began to pick up speed and head straight toward the palace at the center of the four citadels. The snow falling from the mountains was a visual cue many of them recognized right away, as a sign the gigasi were almost there. The palace was rumbling loudly but it was nothing to be compared to the rocking ride those stationed in the citadels were going through. The quakes had become so horrible there that even what was nailed down was beginning to loosen and fall off the walls, move out of place, or rattle loudly. Soldiers were operating ballistas from their knees and preparing to at least fire, if nothing else. The commanders in range had had it, and the wyvern riders were getting too close now. If they blew past the south side citadels, they would only have a few levels of ranged opposition keeping them from the palace, and that wasn't enough. They ordered their men to fire on the riders and hundreds of bolts were launched at the swarm.
Ivanko: Follow me!
Ivanko guided Victor into a turn that had them flying northeast. Everyone followed, save one. One wyvern lord flew high above the formation and began flying up at a forty-five degree angle above the ballista barrage. He stayed far far away from the formation as they maneuvered between the first few waves of bolts. This didn't go unnoticed by the commanders, and one of them realized who the rider was.
Commander: <Wait, that's ... urgh, damn this shaking! Let that one through!>
Commander: <I said let'em through, dammit! That's the informant! If you let'em through we might find out what the hell is causing all this shaking, at least if the IMs are behind it. Get it?>
Ballistician: <Of course! All units, leave the lone rider alone! I repeat, leave him alone! Cease fire, cease fire!>
The ballistician yelled loudly into a spirit doll to signal others and the southwest citadel stopped firing in the wyvern lord's direction giving him a straight path toward the palace. Those stationed at the palace quickly picked up on what was going on and began spreading the word not to fire on the lone rider as well. This wasn't something Ivanko or Ixion wouldn't notice, but Ivanko just shrugged it off drawing his own conclusion in silence.
Ixion: I thought there might be an informant but I didn't suspect-
Iso, Irina, and Stephanie looked out toward the rider wondering if that's who it really was.
Stephanie: A-are you sure that's not just a rando-
Ixion: Don't tell me you didn't recognize your own fiancee, Stephanie. I can only wonder what it took to buy that pathetic imbecile ...
Stephanie: D-don't ... call him that.
Meanwhile near the palace, Ivan flew over to the roof of the massive complex and landed to be greeted by a slew of Zaftran wyvern riders and pegasus knights that were readying themselves for the order to attack. When he landed he was greeted by the commander of that wing.
Zolkov: <You there, former IM, what can you tell us about what's happening here? Where are the IM's main forces?>
Ivan: <Okay, you have to listen carefully, there isn't much tim- ... huh?!>
Ivan couldn't even begin to explain the situation after catching a glimpse of the beast approaching from the complex. A gigantic staircase meant to allow for large or otherwise large amounts of warriors to pass through was being traversed step by step by a massive reddish dragon making its way to the roof. Its head towered above the riders as they glimpsed back at the drake, and then its chest came into view, dwarfing them even more than his head did, and finally the wings appeared and stretched out beyond both ends of the battalion of riders, and finally the beast reared back and roared into the sky.
Ivan: ... oh. My. God.
Zolkov: <Common? Okay.> As you were saying?
Ivan: Wait! What's that thing for?!
Zolkov: This is Orteiga, in his true form. He is going to keep those rebels out of the palace and aid us in driving them back.
Ivan: (Oh no, Stephanie is out there in the thick of this ... ) Listen, you must do me a favor! Whatever you do, don't kill Stephanie. She's a priestess with pink hair, likes to complain a lot but please don't kill her. She doesn't deser-
Zolkov: You'll find a new woman. Don't worry about it. Wasn't that part of our little arrangement? I must say if not for the circumstances it'd be the talk of the town.
Ivan: No, that's not it!
Zolkov: Do not have such a guilty conscience. No sane priestess would be out here in the thick of this. It is better that she dies here and now. You will get over it. Now explain what is going on.
Ivan: Ixion created giant chimeras that tunnel under the ground! That shaking that's been going on is from their digging. They're just about here! They're carrying the main force inside these strange coffins! Once they break into the citadels, all four of them will be flooded with enemies and there won't be enough ballistas left active to keep them from reaching the castle!
Zolkov: <Worms?! Damn!> Go inside and spread this to as many as you can, now! We will not be able halt them with fire from the citadels for much longer, so it is up to our own aerial forces then. <GET REEEEADYYYYYY!!! PREPARE TO KILL EACH AND EVERY LAST ONE OF THEEEEEM!!!>
Ivan: .... (Please Stephanie ... leave. Get out of here, and never come back. I don't want to marry you but I don't want it to come to this either. Please ...)
Orteiga: (The smell of a traitor. Not a scent I enjoy frankly.) <When they draw close I will engage.>
Posted 03 May 2011 - 09:10 PM
"<Yes ma'am,>" came the reply a few seconds later. "<Our traitor's coming in for a landing. Zolkov's up here>"
Borodin frowned. Zolkov had seemed like he would likely not be turned from the royal's side. "<Continue.>"
"<He's talking to Zolkov. Can't hear what they're saying from here.>" There was a pause, punctuated by a roar; that would be Orteiga... Glinka continued when he would be audible again. "<Zolkov's shouting. Looks like he's about to send the traitor inside. Orders, ma'am?>"
"<Get a couple of men to bring him down to me. I'm on level ten, south wall siege engine cluster,>" Borodin instructed. "<I want to hear what the informant's got to say, preferably before the rest of the palace does.>"
"<Understood.>" The doll went silent as Glinka went to carry out his orders. For the moment, Borodin's gaze went back to the approaching force.
As Ivan turned to head indoors, an unfamiliar pair of soldiers appeared from behind, flanking him. "<Come with us, please,>" the shorter of the two said, in a tone indicating that this was not a request.
Posted 03 May 2011 - 09:26 PM
The purple-haired woman and her horse were bounding by now. The horse let loose a shrill whinny in fear but dared not bolt for fear of all the wyverns outside and from the roar that sounded soon after. The woman was begining to understand the magnitude of the situation. (What made that sound? It must have come from the mountain behind us... It sounds like avilanches are falling, too. Good thing we're under this fallen corner. It should hold up well enough. When everything stops shaking, I'm heading out there to see what's going on.)
Posted 03 May 2011 - 09:44 PM
Ivanko saw it, Ixion saw it, hell everyone saw it; the dragon that emerged on the top of the complex where Ivan had landed.
Ivanko: Well damn, no wonder he switched sides. Ixion, if that dragon gets in our way, we're going to need a lot of chimera support.
Ivan: Are you two here to help get the word out? There isn't much time left ...
Posted 04 May 2011 - 12:04 AM
The unit moved out almost as one, following their leader into the hall, a pocket of determined will amidst the swirl of confusion and misdirected bustle. Another particularly fierce tremor threatened to pitch Iris to her knees again, but she caught her balance quickly this time. Peripheral vision quietly informed her that she was still being watched over. At least it was a respectful distance, and with the ground behaving the way it was the annoyance was tempered by a small measure of relief. Perhaps he was simply watching out for everyone though, she noted, catching a glimpse of the mountain of a man―when she'd first learned he was a healer it had been quite the shock―offering a steadying hand to Dmitriy, who had also stumbled but been... less swift in his recovery.
The rumbling didn't cease when they left the confines of the building either, taking position near a squad of ballisticians. Borodin immediately set about making sure they were staying disciplined, but in the howling wind one's voice could only travel so far. According to protocol, then, Iris stationed herself to act as a relay, in earshot of the General so as to extend the range of coverage her orders would carry. Hand-signs were of course also used, but Zaftran military prided itself on multiple levels of redundancy to safeguard against weather-induced failure. If there were a blinding whiteout, the signals alone wouldn't be enough after all. Following Iris's echo of the call to "<Hold your fire!"> there was little else for her to personally be doing at the moment, besides keeping abreast of the situation and her superior's whereabouts, making sure to stay in vocal and visual contact at all times. With numbers like these there was no point exhausting herself trying to pick wyverns out of the sky with Meteor, not when the ballistae were so plentiful.
As such she also noted the arrival of the Ivanko turncoat to the fortress, and was pleased to hear Borodin taking initiative to collect him first and formost. The roar that Orteiga let loose with took her breath away, as always. No matter how many times you hear a thing like that, it never fails to inspire a sense of true awe, she thought. Woe be to those who cross... wait a minute. A momentary flutter of unease passed through the lieutenant, before she brought it under control. The General would never have considered the operation without planning ahead.
Edited by Balcerzak, 04 May 2011 - 12:07 AM.
Posted 04 May 2011 - 12:15 AM
Borodin turned toward them. "<Thank you, Abramovich, Erdeli,>" she said, dismissing her men with a nod. Her attention focused on Ivan. "<What is the source of this shaking, and have the mercenaries got anything else I should know about up their sleeves?>" she asked sharply.
Posted 04 May 2011 - 03:08 PM
Ivan: This shaking ... it just won't stop. <Ixion is responsible for this. The citadels surrounding this building are about to be breached. These huge chimeras he created are burrowing under the mountain and they're bringing all of their ground forces with them in these we're pod coffin things. The moment they break through, they'll release them and they'll wipe out the parameter defenses from the inside. There's so little time left now though, and I couldn't get away any sooner to warn you people. It's probably too late by now if the shaking is this constant. They can't be but a few hundred feet below us now.>
Ivan hung his head, feeling like he had done all he could to keep the destruction to a minimum and failed. A feeling of dread was sweeping over him quickly and he just wanted to see someone before the violence truly got started.
Ivan: Miss, is there anything else you need? If not, could you please direct me to where the noncombatants are being kept in this place?
The aim of the ballistas firing on the swarm of wyverns was poor at best due to the tremendous rumbling the citadels were experiencing. It had escalated even more than before, and now staying on one's knees wasn't even enough for a decent shot. The siege engines were rattling violently and shifting across the floor. Pebbles and dust were falling from the ceiling on many of the floors, and in the lowest levels, the ground began to crack leaving massive crevices across the floor. Ivanko continued to lead his fliers in a wild series of maneuvers through the inaccurate flak and flew a path closer and closer to the palace. Zolkov knew his riders would be airborne soon.
Mercenary: "If death surprises me this day, let it be welcome if my battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up my arms."
With an enormous burst of rock and gravel, the bottom level of the southwest citadel was breached. A gigantic mass of tough hide came through the ground and immediately crashed into the ceiling. It was not slowed down at all and broke up through another floor, and then another, and another. The violence rumblings near the palace began to subside, but the opposite was true for those in the citadels. As each gigas breached the lower levels, anyone within ten levels was forced to the ground. Several floors collapsed onto each other making it even easier for the massive chimeras to burrow up toward the siege engine levels. All four citadels had been breached and their cover fire for the palace had been halted entirely. The only forces standing between Ivanko's fliers and the palace, were the palace's own siege engines, Zolkov's brigade, and Orteiga. The dragon stood firm ready to engage them, and Zolkov mounted up.
Zolkov: <Listen up, men! Ivanko is leading them into this battle, so what we must do to drive them back is bring him down. They've made it too far already and something is happening in the citadels. Focus your attacks on Ivanko, he is priority number one. When he goes down, they will have no reason to be here and their moral will plummet! Now, KILL THAT MERCENARY SCUM!!!>
The entire brigade took off together and made their way toward the almost equally sized mercenary swarm. Zolkov's goal was to cut the head from the serpent's body and end the fight before they ever reached the palace.
Posted 04 May 2011 - 04:27 PM
(Will...they attack me? Oh my-- Will they attack me?!) Wyevern riders and pegasus knight were far more manuverable than ballistae and were harder to stay out of ranche from. For whatever reason he hadn't expected the military at Kalten to have flying soldiers. It was obvious he wasn't one of their fellow Zaftrans but he wondered if he looked like one of the mercenaries from their points of view. He was flying with the mercenaries somewhat, after all, though at a much lower altitude. (I can maneuver pretty well...but these people are trained for aerial combat. If they're even half as good as Irina...) Tas' memory went back to his only spar with the woman for a moment, causing the courier to force the memory away before it warped into what could very well happen if he was being chased down by any of these Zaftran riders. (It's ok, Tas... You won't be fighting them. If they come at you, you'll only work as a diversion and one of the mercenaries will take advantage of the distraction. Besides that, they'll be busy fighting the mercenaries. And even then, if one happens to come at you, you can just try to outmaneuver him before he gets too close. You'll be fine... ... Even though you're used to camoflauge tactics in rocky areas and not snowy ones. ... I am not dressed for this. I should be wearing white and gray. Oh well... Not like I can do anything about it.)
Finally the shaking was dying down. The rumbling was still quite loud, though, and was coming from behind. So, signalling for the horse to stay under the cover of the browken-off, half-burried tower-corner, the woman left the shelter to see what was going on. When she turned around, she was amazed. Yep. There was a fortress up there but it didn't look like it'd last long. Above her two armies were well on their way to an arial skirmish. Also, there was a dragon at the mountain-top citadel. "Well. This certainly is a day worth seeing," she commented to herself. The figured everyone was too distracted to notice her, though she stuck out like a sore thumb among the rubble and snow what with how bright the colors she was wearing were. Her horse's tack was just as brightly-colored, too, but he was still out of sight in the shelter. The woman returned to her horse, took her physic staff and headed back out, watching the sky and waiting for the first wyverns to start falling.
She was noticed, though. "Did...that woman just come out from that triangle-shaped rock?" Tas wondered aloud as he flew ever-closer, trying to keep directly under the mercenaries' flying army. She held her attention only for a moment. There were more dire things to pay attention to at the moment.
Posted 04 May 2011 - 04:59 PM
It was quickly becoming clear that the mercenaries knew what they were doing, and Borodin was starting to believe that they might be a better choice. She'd still have to speak with Ivanko before she could properly decide... she'd have to figure out what to do while waiting for him to get within distance. Right now, though, people were in danger. She got out her subordinates' callers, and started from the ground up. "<Kouriatov, orders.>"
"<The quakes are coming from massive worms. They're targeting the citadels, not the palace. Get any civilians still down there out of the bottom three levels anyway in case of damage. Once the shaking stops-- not before-- start checking on the tunnels. I expect they'll be too damaged to traverse, but if they're clear and not in danger of collapsing, send troops to the citadels. Don't split them all up; leave some here. I want a report as soon as the tunnels have been checked.>"
The walls were next. "<Ilyushin, orders.>"
"<Yes? We're shaking like mad, can't fire if that's what you're going to ask for,>" came the reply.
"<No. In fact, you're to hold your fire until I tell you otherwise,>" Borodin replied. "<Kouriatov and Glinka are going to be sending troops out, though, so you'll need to spread your forces out a bit more. The shaking should stop shortly so you'll be able to move.>"
Finally, air support. "<Glinka, orders.>"
"<Here. Abramovich and Erdeli get there all right?>"
"<Yes, I've got the informant with me now. Anyway, the shaking's coming from beasts targeting the citadels. Once it stops, I want you to split your force up-- a wing for each citadel, and the remainder to stay here. They are not to engage in combat; the citadels are going to collapse somewhat and you're to concentrate on helping out anyone who's trapped. Leave someone you trust here; I want you to go personally to Northeast. Razin's in charge there. Tell him if he orders his men to stand aside he's got my support; alternately if he wants me to take charge of his troops I'd be willing to do that. Additional orders after you've done that. Report when you're getting ready to split up.>"
"<Yes, ma'am.>" Glinka's tone was entirely unsurprised; he'd learned not to be surprised by his commander by now.
Borodin pocketed the spirit dolls again. "<Who in the flying group are important?>" she asked Ivan. "<Particular targets to go after or avoid?>" She managed not to flinch as she saw the citadels shudder and crumble; no use fretting, she'd already done what she could there. "<Hold your fire! I'll give the order!>" she added, as the ballisticians started checking their equipment for damage done by the shaking. "<Quickly, I'll be getting reports shortly,>" she told Ivan.
Edited by Kiryn, 06 May 2011 - 09:18 PM.
Posted 04 May 2011 - 05:28 PM
Ivan: T-targets, r-right. Ivanko is trying to replace Denisov as the emperor so this entire operation will falter if he is defeated, but in the air he's extremely dangerous. His weapons can cut through armor like butter ...
Outside, the two groups of fliers collided in a storm of wild wings and swinging steel! The first kill, Ivanko swung his sword and cleaved a rider in half, and during the pass, Victor took hold of the wyvern and jerked it out of the way, breaking its wing in the process. The wyvern could only tumble helplessly the two thousand or so feet into the ruins below.
Ivan: Then there's Ixion, the one that created the chimeras. He's as important to defeat as Ivanko. The chimeras are under his direct control, including the giant worms I suspect. I was positive he wouldn't be fighting on the front lines but I suppose he's more reckless than I thought. Getting rid of him might stop the chimeras, but Im' not sure.
Again, out in the midst of the battle, Ixion wrapped himself and Stratos in a barrier that took all of his concentration to sustain, and then his chimera began muscling her way through them, the barrier acting as a shield and knocking riders and their wyverns out of the way, some of them even falling from the battle area.
Ivan: Then there's ... Levski. He's second in command of the soldiers. He won't be far from Ivanko. If he goes down, a large part of the command structure fails and it falls on Ivanko to command the entire aerial forces which, given how he fights would be nearly impossible.
As more wyvern riding Zaftran warriors approached, Levski readied his axe and guided Krinkov into the swarm of enemies. One of them came up ready to pierce him with his lance, but Lev barrel rolled rising above the rider's attack and swung his axe down hitting the rider in the head. If not for his helmet, his head would have been cut open down the middle. Instead he fell from his wyvern. As the wyvern went to retrieve its unconscious rider, Levski swung again and prevented another lance from drawing too close as he followed Ivanko. A little spray of cold blood touched his face as he tried to follow behind Ivanko. He didn't know if it was human or wyvern blood but Ivanko and Victor were obviously making bloody mess up ahead. He barely had time to dodge a falling wyvern that had lost its left wing by some unknown means. A split second after clearing the tumbling drake, he saw what was left of the wing fall by on the other side.
Lev: Well Victor is obviously enjoying these ....
Ivan: I suppose another crucial element is ... is ...
He could barely bring himself to say her name. A betrayal like that was something he wasn't sure if he could manage.
Ivan: I-Irina. She's Ivanko's niece. She's a strong rider but if she went down, Ivanko might be weakened by it, which would be crucial I think. Levski too. It might weaken him even more so.
He put his head down. Clearly saying that to the woman was something he felt awful for doing.
Ivan: Can I ... please just ...
He couldn't finish his sentence, unable to get what he had possibly done out of his mind.
Posted 04 May 2011 - 05:48 PM
"<Only viable tunnel is Northwest, and it's looking pretty iffy,>" came Kouriatov's voice. "<You want me to send anyone?>"
"<Send a group, yes. Bring gear for getting survivors out-- shovels, picks. No blasting yet. There will be mercenaries there-- don't engage them if you can call them off. Concentrate on getting people out of the lower levels. If it looks like the tunnel's going to collapse, call them back. If the tunnel's clear all the way, I want you to go through-- leave the force here to someone you trust. Luzhin's in charge there. If you can get through, I want you to see if you can convince him to stand down, or to pass command to me,>" Borodin instructed.
As soon as that connection closed, another opened up. "<General?>" Glinka was calling.
"<Relief forces are on their way to the citadels. Everyone else is still on the roof. I'm about to leave myself.>"
"<Good. Once you've talked to Razin, report back to me. Don't send the roof forces to attack unless I tell you to.>"
Looking to the sky, Borodin could see four streams of riders-- her troops-- heading out to the citadels. A much larger force had gone to engage the mercenaries... that would be Zolkov, she thought. The mercenaries were clearly the superior force there. "<Frederikov, can you get me a line to Zolkov before he kills himself?>" she asked. She had a set of spirit dolls to each of the other generals, currently in her assistant's care; the dolls were color-coded, but she'd rather not be juggling ten at a time in addition to her main officers'. While she waited for the spirit doll, she turned back to Ivan. "<This second-in-command. How would I identify him?>" Contacting the second might be more useful than talking to Ivanko, she thought...
Edited by Kiryn, 06 May 2011 - 09:40 PM.
Posted 04 May 2011 - 05:53 PM
"Ugh.. This is too low..." grumbling, the woman climbed onto some of the ruins' rubble so she could be at least somewhat closer. Detatched limbs she had to let fall, but those that could be healed with a staff she healed indiscriminantly. "Moving healing targets... This certainly is a challenge... But how could I call myself a head priestess if I didn't try? Ziatani, Oraisunyou... You will supply my light!" With a fesh burst of determination, the woman's healing reached farther up. However, it was still nigh impossible to pinpoint what needed healing, if only because she had normal vision. (My light can only reach as far as my eyes can see and detect what needs healing... Oh, this is so difficult...)
"Whoa!!" Tas had to pull up somewhat so he could direct Namid more nimbley. Wyverns and riders alike were falling from the sky and he would have to avoid their falling remains. "This is...terrible..." Tas mentioned, nearly gagging as a wing blew by in the wind. (This... This is war...?)
Posted 04 May 2011 - 08:12 PM
Ivan: You want to talk to them? (Well I suppose it's better than throwing soldiers at them until they go down but ...) Levski rides a red wyvern, a bigger than normal, but not really a bull, and nothing compared to Ivanko's. He'll be flying along with Ivanko helping to keep the formation strong and organized. If you want to talk to him, he'll have to be brought out of the fighting first.
Then the wyvern lord glared thinking about Lev for a moment.
Ivan: Getting into contact with him is easy, in fact, as long as you're a woman, you can at least call out to him and he won't ignore or attack you. (Idiot.)
The wyvern tried desperately to recover but couldn't move its wing without being crippled by the pain. The fear only intensified as the ground approached. Suddenly the pain began to diminish all of a sudden and the wyvern immediately put itself into a steep glide. It crashed in the woods breaking dozens of branches along the way but still survived the ordeal. It wasn't sure what to do after that. It knew its rider was already dead, and now it had no idea what to do or where to go.
Ivanko and Victor continued to cut a path of bloody destruction toward the palace, and the others followed, no longer threatened by an overwhelming storm of arrows and ballista bolts, it would be only a couple of minutes before they were close enough to try and land.
Ixion: (I need to formulate a plan to defeat or subvert that dragon, but it's admittedly difficult under the circumstances. There are a slew of other problems we're facing right now. The citadels are old, but I didn't expect them to hold up this poorly against my diggers. The southwest citadel already has sections peeling away and it may collapse outright any minute now. The mercenaries' only hopes of surviving are staying inside their pods. Unfortunately that is also a problem. Those pods were only designed to provide them just enough air supply to survive the trip. If they stay in there of the course of this battle not a one of them will survive, and I can't risk sending a digger to the palace. The destruction there might be worse. I'll need to keep an eye on things for a moment, and try to find where best to place them.)
Not terribly far away, Zolkov and a few of his best riders were flying in formation together, circling around to try and flank Ivanko.
Zolkov: <He is just one man. ONE MAN. Let your aim be true and strike him from the back of that overgrown behemoth. Hit him together, and all at once!>
As the riders closed in for the kill, Ivanko cut down another opponent, and the wyvern was left to Victor's merciless wrath. Levski caught sight of the oncoming commander and his men, just like many others, but Levski was in a position to do something about that, and banked left hard to leave the formation and intercept them.
Irina: Lev, wait a second! Don't go by yourself!
Lev: I'm not!
As if on cue, a number to match Zolkov's men followed Levski and left the formation. The next wave of Zolkov's battalion that was coming from the north slammed into the mercenary formation and both sides were mixed into a kilometer wide mess of fliers trying to kill each other. Irina wasn't confident about their chances in this kind of situation and pulled out of the battle flying rather high above it to get a better look at what was going on. Kiev never took his eyes off of her and followed right behind just like she knew he would taking Iso and Stephanie with him.
Meanwhile Zolkov and his men came in hoping to blow past Levski and his riders. The two sides collided with a flurry of metal clashes and flesh ripping sounds. Two of Levski's riders were taken down, and one of Zolkov's were killed. Lev and his two remaining wingmen circled around for another pass as did Zolkov and his remaining three. The came in again, and Lev signaled for the other two to break off, which they did immediately, leaving Lev to fight the three riders and Brigadier General alone, or so it seemed. They had only gone a short distance but were still closing in with Lev. When the two sides neared each other, Lev had Krinkov fly low, and he leaped from the saddle with two axes in hand, a hand axe, and his two hander. He immediately threw the hand axe at Zolkov, but the warrior dove as well and the axe instead struck a subordinate in the head, embedding itself in his faceplate and killing him.
Zolkov's maneuver had been a last ditch effort to evade the attack, and Levski was now flying right over his head. Not only that, but Krinkov was about to crash into them. There was no avoiding it now. Levski's wingmen flanked the other two, one mercenary killing a Zaftran wyvern rider, and the other Zaftran seriously wounding the mercenary. Lev took his axe and used it to drag Zolkov off of his wyvern as their two mounts collided and began clawing at each other like lions! Levski and Zolkov began tumbling from the sky, with Lev strangling the man with his axe hilt. Their wyverns locked in a dead heat weren't far behind them.
Irina: Holy wyvern! LEEEV!!!
Iso: Whoa ...
The two wyvern lords struggled against each other until Zolkov got free and flipped himself around to kick Levski away from himself. Just then the wyverns broke off, and Zolkov's flew down to try and bite Lev out of the air. With a quick swing of his axe, Lev dissuaded the wyvern long enough for Krinkov to begin his own assault. The red wyvern grabbed Zolkov's from behind and dragged him away from Lev. Zolkov took that time to draw his sword, the only weapon he had left, and began gliding in to attack Lev. Another fifteen hundred feet and the ground would claim the lot of them.
Zolkov: You're all going to die here, you know that right?!
Zolkov swung for Lev, but he simply swung in turn and a wasteful set of blows was exchanged as they fell helplessly. Krinkov continued rending the neck of the enemy wyvern until it broke free again. The riders exchanged blows again, the ground getting ever closer.
Lev: Urgh! Get the hell out of my way!
Zolkov: The only way for you is down, my friend, straight into the ground!
Zolkov attacked yet again. Krinkov and Zolkov's wyvern had had enough. Neither had the time left to ensure a kill on the other and they were both uncomfortable falling for this long, the battle was far far above them now, and the ground not comfortably far below them, with details beginning to get clearer and clearer by the second. They immediately went for their respective riders, nosediving as fast as they could. Krinkov reached Lev first and they began to slow down. When Zolkov was picked up, it was on once again. Even though they were still in a downward and rapid descent, Zolkov flew after Levski yet again and readied his sword. Lev looked back with annoyance in his eyes. This guy was not afraid to risk it all on a good fight, was he?
Lev: Get ready, Krinkov. Only one of us is getting out of this alive if this guy has anything to say about it ....
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