The Let's Play Archive

Warlock 2: The Exiled

by JcDent

Part 10: The Second War of Howling Sorrow

My apologies, I had a small anniversary to take care of yesterday, and that could have gone better

Chapter 9: The Second War of Howling Sorrow

The humble fireball was the first spell that King Lich learned after the start of the war.

Unfortunately, that didn‘t change one horrible thing: Rurik‘s Men (sans Rurik), the most veteran company in the realm, was the first one lost in hostilities, a victim of combined mage attack.

The King locked himself in the library, ordering everyone to stay away, and promising to emerge only for war sorcery.

"Senior Prospectors have seen so much in their lifetime that for them nothing is impossible. Start a fire under tropical rain, find gold in the desert or win a battle against all odds? Piece of cake!"
(from "Chronicles of New Worlds" written by Master Vardies Teleran)

With the death of Rurik‘s Men, someone else had to step up and lift the spirits of the people (without the use of spirits). To that end, senior prospectors, most of them retired to tech in Prospector Guild, donned their prospector armor and gear, took their Doppelxbows, and went to war.

These were grim men who knew their chances of survival were low, but went non the less.

„Magic Speed! No, I don‘t need to move faster... I need to read faster... think faster... This doesn‘t help... Faster, faster...“

The enemy had been forced back to Baytown. Unfortunately, that enemy consisted of a core of mages, with mages on flanks and mage support at the back. One heroic company, making their camp in the nearby foothills, made daring attempts to strike at the enemy.

The enemy responded by a daring attempt to build a fort right under their noses. Peasants and craftsmen and masons worked day and night, hauling stones, cutting timber, making food, while a company of mages held Svart warriors in check.

Another company of mages was in great trouble.

Either by tradition or by rote, mages wore great long coats of fine (and heavy) fabrics, as well as other lavish and colorful luxury clothing. They likely felt the clothing apt recompense for all the hardship in mage academies.

Unfotunately, that clothing was less apt for dead marches, and the mages, driven into the swamps by an advance of Svarts that didn’t seem to mind their spells, were bogged down and waiting for their deaths.

Death, however, was busy elsewhere. A field near regret had some curious glistening things scattered about. A monocle there, a prospecting helm there. A Doppelxbow cluched in the hands of a burnt corpse. A prospecting array near a brook, it’s cracked lenses half submerged in the dead water. Climbing hooks standing like a strange skeleton of a metallic beast.

Senior prospectors had done their part in holding the line… and paid the price.

“Emerah knew how to fly… No, she had a broom… This war would be faster with Emerah… But she’s dead. Dead, dead, dead. Just like Rurik’s Men…”

While King was cursing throwing lightning inside the library, loyal (and still alive) Svarts were pushing on Baytown. One company was nearing a fort that held one of the roads to the Gate of Fading.

A little more to the north, ser Hugue had separated mages from Baytown and was leading the siege, along with a few other companies of troops.

“Honor Guard! Remember that we’re fighting against treasonous people and to avenge the honor of our fallen! In our righteous bloodlust we should not forget that, and we should not lower ourselves to the level of the enemy! Remember that when walls fall and peasants start begging for mercy!”

Mages, cut off from Baytown, had the strangest idea – or at least that what advance scouts could say. They decided to bee line towards the Gate to Burnouts.

Much like the previous attempt at invasion, they forgot that Dauheimur was in their way…

And the fight agaist Krell’s forces was taking its toll on the land. Constantly assaulted by spells that either aimed to weaken or strengthen (depends of who was casting) the Svart farces encamped there, the fabric of the plain itself twisted and turned into a poisonous, mana infused landscape.

The Honor Guard didn’t seem to mind. Truth be said, enjoyed the fact that going to the loo at night was that much easier with the ambient lighting.

A crack of light pierced the relative darkness of the library.

“What... What is happening?”

As the light fell on King Lich, he started to hear a distant howling…

“...listen well, m’lord”

“I guess this means you and your men are dead”

“We are alive in the eternal light of Helia. And she, our mistress, has a task…”

“I am at war, among other things, can’t this wait…”

“Our mistress helped you win the last war… at the cost of our lives, even. Now, you will help her… Kill the trespasser!”

"He is the last dusk. He is the reaper of dreams. He is the silent killer. He is the terror whose wings flap in the knight. He is the Dark Rider."
- From the "Servants of truth" by High Keeper Teyaran the Rigorous

“I guess… I guess that warrants our attention…”

“So, what is this?”

“It’s... It’s a mana yard, sir”

“I know that, you lanky imbecile. What does it do?”

“It collect mana run-off. You know, from mana collectors, and mana pools… basically, any use of mana. Apparently, we’re not very efficient at using it. Every time a great mage casts a spell, a hedge wizard tries to hex someone… a maiden reads a love incantation correctly… there’s a runoff of mana. And so it’s stored here”

“Huh. You Planestrider lot might be useful after all. Good thing we didn’t throw you over the edge like we planned”

“Thank you…er…what?”

There was a hill near Serne Vary, a hill engulfed in tents. There was a reason to this madness, and that reason was that the hill was no hill, but a barrow. A barrow, unlike a crypt, wasn’t likely to raise its inhabitants to make more inhabitants for other crypts. A barrow was well protected from graverobbers and whelps that worshiped Krypta out of rebellious lark.
Therefore, barrows held magical secrets and treasures… and there was some profit to be made from that.

Baytown wasn’t in the best position. The mages had gone away to Krolm knows where (and mostly dead due to unhealthy proximity to Svart fortresses). The city was completely surrounded by Svarts from one side and a crazy knight from the other.

And what’s worse, the reinforcements they were getting were plain human…

Elspritsters reign of random spells continued. The last one resulted in a cloud of miasma that turned lands near Daurosian into a swamp. Rumors abounded about a fotress in the middle of it, guarded by gnolls and flying serpents and lizardmen, and of Warriors of Dauros fighting wyverns on the edges of the swamp.

The worshipers of Dauros remained silent on this matter. Then again, worshipers of Dauros remained eerily silent on many matters.

“Ah, cold wind… I remember freezing a part of Dremer realm… I remember having sent friends there. Likely dead now, just like those poor Svarts”

The situation near Baytown was changing from bad to worse… for humans. Svarts, weakened by Krell’s magic, but nearly impervious due to magic of King Lich, made one last assault on the fortress and tore down the walls.

Some Guard smuggled pouches of raw magical earth to grow potent tabacco, while one who smuggled some of it in hopes of growing potent yams had his bag confiscated and his pay cut.

Nature might abhor vacuum, but it abhorred unclaimed land even more. Snow Maidens made camp near one of the cities. Unfortunately, their camp was within arrow shot from city walls…

…and Svarts were very angry – wrathful even - at human-like creatures that were likely to shoot other Svarts.

“Raise the land… if only it would raise the dead with it… no, raising the dead is not enough, I need to raise the living. Concentrate, damn it”

Dauheimur, coordinating attacks with the garrison of Silver Silks, finally managed to kill the Spirit of Darkness. It fell to the ground that was already covered with corpses of mages, arrows pincushions all of them.

“...go with the sun, my liege”

This was it. After gruelling hours of combat and death, and bloodshed, the walls of Baytown were a ruin, and the gates lay broken. They only needed to step in…”

“King Lich promises honorable treatment to anyone who swears allegiance here and know, and serves their new master. Citizens of Baytown need not fear the fate of Alexiri, for your sins are not your own, but of your master”

And so they bowed their heads, and swore allegiance.

This had the fortunate effect of placing a fort within shooting distance of the gate to fading and a Warrior company cut off from ways to retreat.

There were a few stragglers that had to be hunted down in the hills…

…and one mage, who avoided the death at the hands of Svarts and Spirit of Darkness, who made an arduous treck over the dead plains of Howling Sorrows, who saw his best friend choke on his own blood as a Svart arrow pierced his neck… that made stepped through the gates of Burnouts and was immediately roasted by a ball of fire that came from the tower in the distance.

“I wish I had time for proper torture, but this will do”

The burn fetal form that used to be a mage could not comment on that.

The last of Snow Maidens fell to the axes of ‘Graverobbers’ (the company bore many names, all of them had something to do with desecrating tombs), their finely made fur coats no match for Svart steel.

The war might have been winding down at this point, but there were other troubles still. For example, two turtles now blocked the entrance to Long Shores.

And another swamp miraculously appeared in the middle of Howling Sorrow.

“Let me share some experience with you, lad. If there’s one thing that this campaign under the Skull Banner taught me, is that ground changing under your feet is the last of your worries”.

“Still not what I need… But it will serve, so that I wouldn’t have to raise more friends in the future”.

“M...M’lord knight, might I beg your attention?”

“Yes, what is it that you want?”

“M’lord, I represent a small silver mining and crafting guild, in the Drassen mines. We’re located in the hills nearby. I…we wanted to show our loyalty to King Lich”

“Are you trying to bribe me?”

“Bbb-bribe?” The man went white “No, sir, we’re just humble craftsmen. And we want to help, really. Here, if you wouldn’t mind taking a look…”

And there it was, a fine silvery sword. Making silver swords wasn’t easy (for one, you can’t just hammer silver till you get a sword) and required great craftsmanship. And silver weapons were very potent, able to cut, easily, many of Ardania’s (and Shards’) fiercest creatures.

“Well, this sort of help will be greatly appreciated by all of your king’s subjects”

“Our lord says that you will bleed some more before there’s a peace. Take this to your master!”

And so the messenger did. However, he kept the kick that sent him flying through the Gate secret.

“I can’t have wildlife troubling my subjects. Something has to be done…”

“Expect axes in your future, foul critter”

Great news came from Gatehouse! Rune Witche’s Guild was established on the highest hill surrounding the city. There was little question as to why they chose this remote city.

Along with Rune Bedchambers (situated on a lower hill), a mana collector and a magic testing area, Gatehouse became home to Gatehouse Academy of Higher Rune and Magic Studies. There was enough mana to supply even the most ambitious of rune experiments… and a zone expecialy built to contain the results of the more volatile ones.

Even if magic was not science, it was still possible to observe it scientifically. After all, spells were magical effects with reproducible results, no matter how little sense their source made. And Svarts were extremely interesting in reproducing all sorts of effects in the shape of runes.

Rune Witches were training diligently behind those tall walls on the hill… and eventually the most ambitious ones would find their way into King’s employ.

But before that, a new magic tower – a king of miniaturized copy of the one in Lichgrad – was erected near the gate. Its purpose was to sling magical lighting and kill invading troops, a task it did wonderfully.

Another free city was established – and this was the first one outside Burnouts. Svarts, Planestriders and regular humans who felt more in tune with the grim aspects of the world flooded there to share their pain and poetry, and to escape the punches of their peers.

On the other side of the spectrum, Plain of Blood was established in the Fields of Honor, surrounded by swamps and lands of death. Worshippers of Krolm gathered there, to commemorate the deeds of Svarts fallen in the fight against Krell and maybe punch some undead swamp monstrosities into pulp.

“Maybe… maybe I’ll turn Fading into a giant wasteland… But later, later on…”

For now, a small and inexplicable invasion had to be turned back. A great opportunity for fresh recruits to bloody the axes.

“I can’t help but feel that we’re doomed, somehow”