Chapter Thirteen

Non est ad astra mollis e terris via

By some odd thread of fate, a towering barbarian and a dwarf of the cloth were able to tame a wild mammoth without so much as a scratch or alarming the rest of the herd. Soon all five warriors were mounted upon the beast like some strange parade of circus sideshows.

Luring the Thunderbird to a vale that provided favorable advantage, the party planned to quickly dispatch one of the legendary beasts and acquire feathers, but upon the brink of defeat the beast retreated in a flash of lightning and at once was high upon the rocky mountains in it’s nest. The party ascended the jagged precipice and under the veil of a surmounting maelstrom, we able to approach the nests undetected. The bird was tending to it’s wounds poised in it’s nest, in an instant it’s attackers were upon it and it stood no chance against the experienced warriors and was slain.

Taming the mammoth, using it to lure a thunderbird in to a vale and ultimately climbing a sheer cliff with blade-like edges and destroying a primal entity of earth and sky took the better part of a full morning and day; but was fleeting compared to the time it took for the party to decide whether or not to attempt to acquire as many of the beasts’ eggs that they found lying about in the half a dozen nests perched within the jagged cliffside. When they finally came to a less than amicable agreement it was deep into the night to they made camp. Darella walked into the night.

The next day the party left for the east to light the Soulfire beacon, with a great deal fewer eggs than Leomourn had desired. He had not spoken for three days as they traveled on the Hammerhead at a slow speed and low altitude to evade high flying xenophobic drakes.

The beacon was on an large island visible from the shore. Called Ellan Vannin. Delgen fixed some dials and pressed some buttons on his K.E.Y. Steam whistled and some gears moved on the dwarf’s wrist. The Hammerhead lowered until it was almost brushing the icy waters of the Øresund. The dark water reflecting moonlight like a sea of obsidian shards dancing and moving in concert. The Zeitship hovered over the shore and brushed the tops of trees as it advanced silently upon the center of the island like some stone predator.

“This must be the Valley of the Seven Jarls.” Darella said, at the front of the ship.

“How do you know?” Leomourn asked, looking up from counting his gold.

“Well that for one.” Darella said as she pointed downwards. Everyone crowded round to look. They had just crested a deep forest and were overlooking a large vale between two mountain ranges that run parallel for while but eventually become one at the very center of the island. Deep in the vale there was a bright light.

“That must be the Mouth of Heaven.” Amarella said, Darella nodding.

“Mouth of Heaven?” Leomourn asked.

“You never listen do you? The Soulfire beacon is on this island but on another demension. The beacon is through the Mouth of Heaven, but we must retrieve a key…from the Jarls. The Jarls are the protectors of the Beacon. Long ago the Jarls tried to stop Sarconis but were defeated. Their honor lives on in these forms to protect and guard the beacon so that souls would not be at the whims of a hungry dragon. Only the worthy can defeat them and acquire the key to the Mouth of Heaven.” Amarella said.

“How do you know all that?” Leomourn asked.

“I listened! The Order of the Storm told us the plan. You never listen.

“What are you all looking at? Can you really see it?” Delgen asked squinting his eyes from behind his spectacles that he had produced from his belt. He flicked two more lenses down to magnify his vision.

“There they are.” Darella said. She nodded towards a section of the vale that was between the Hammerhead and the Mouth of Heaven. Seven figures stood still as statues on a stage of basalt columns granting them all different tactical advantages.

Delgen guided the Hammerhead with stiff defined hand movements and placed the ship near the Seven and hovered at a safe height.

“Good day, Sers. We are the Warriors of Tomorrow, we are the worthy ones come to retrieve the key to the Mouth of Heaven. I thank you for your cooperation and diligence in protecting the key from the unworthy, now we have come for the key…with no trouble.” Delgen looked around, Leomourn nodded at the dwarf.

“Takið þín yður spjót!” The biggest man in the center of the warriors screamed in the direction of the ship. The man bellowed a powerful roar as he stretched and looked into the sky. His body slowly grew fur and mass until he was fully enveloped in the consuming form of a large bear. The bear growled once again and the other six warriors advanced upon the commanding voice of the one called Bjorn.

“Bernard!” Amarella screamed. The mechanical guardian stepped off the stern of the ship upon his master’s command. There was a rope fastened tightly upon his middle, the rope was connected to the bow of the Hammerhead, causing Bernard to launch forward after being caught by the length of the rope. Darella gripped her rapier and teleported in cloud of shadow that dissipated like a sea creature’s ink in the ocean. Amarella grabbed a length of chain and climbed over the railing and leapt from the bowsprit tossing the chain over the rope that connected the ship to her Sheild Guardian, grabbing it with the other hand and riding the taut rope to the ground. It was held fast by the immense weight of Bernard, even under the weight of the amazon speeding down. Amarella let go of the chain as she barreled towards the ground and at once summoned her curved blade of light with a grunt and cut the rope in a swift motion and then ran forward, Bernard followed suit now liberated from the hemp tie.

The smallest Jarl hopped down from the highest of the basalt columns and was lost in the particularly high grass. A taller experienced looking Jarl pulled a banner from the stone near the Bear and advanced, jumping from a height and digging the flag deep into the ground as he landed. There was a faint magical ripple that came from the banner and made the Jarls shimmer in the fading sunlight. The pale sunlight, obscured but the overcast, reflected aggressively from the banners metallic pole. A very large Jarl slowly descended the chaotic battlefield towards the grassy valley below, he carried a very large tower shield made of stone and tree. A short Jarl with a silver beard advanced brandishing two large curved daggers, he was so short he could have been dwarven.

Darella appeared behind the Jarls and slowly approached the Leader. Delgen flipped a switch and with that crisp sound the bottom of the Hammerhead opened and Fenris fell from the cargo hold and was upon the cold green land ready to charge. Or at least that is what was supposed to happen. Delgen made a small hand gesture and the Hammerhead pitched forward and Delgen put a foot up on the railing as he had a better view of the battlefield.

“It’s stuck again! Leomourn you’ll have to open the hatch manually!” Delgen called out.

Darella perched behind the Bearform remaining unseen but also unbalanced because of the chaotic formation of basalt underneath her feet, advanced upon the beast with her blade, the attack being awkward already with the Jarls feet being at chest level to the rogue; it was a miss. Bernard advanced towards the stone stage.

“Ulfr!” The bearform roared into the sky. At that the Jarl who had planted the banner unsheathed two blades from his left hip and was upon the shield guardian in an instant. The queer style of the Jarl confused the construct. He wield a short wide blade which he held in the reverse grip on his left. His primary hand artfully held a long sword that blurred and left a trail, this palinopsiatic blade hooked Bernards footing and dropped him prone effortlessly.

Leomourn ran to a lever on the deck of the ship and released the hatch, dropping the half-giant werebeast into the vale. Fenrir stormed the stage once he regained his footing from the awkward drop.

“Got it!” Leomourn yelled triumphantly.

“Uxi!” Bjorn howled into the battle in the voice of a great bear. The very large Jarl who carried a shield as big as a tree that could hold the girth of the Jarl himself sprinted forward and stopped. He rested the shield on the ground and whispered an arcane blessing to the inside of the shield, runes a the base and top of the shield blazed with the fiery magicks of the ancients and faded. The Jarl then stepped away from the shield and spun around, extending within the swing his immense lance of alabaster. A magical arching of energy started at the base of the lance and was launched from the tip as the Jarl snapped the lance to a halt. The lance’s tip was pointed Fenrir.

The arcane bolt struck the rabid beast in the leg, causing a fault in the wolf’s advance. Leomourn saw the Jarl attack his half-brother and loosed a volley of arrows upon the corpulent Jarl. Many of the projectiles fell into the ground about the Jarl, others snapped on impact, unable to pierce the thick armour of the Jarl who laughed to himself deep in the valley.

“Haukr!” Bjorn commanded. The thin Jarl looked up keenly and nocked an arrow. He raised his bronze bow high in the air and whispered to the arrow once it was pulled to it’s limit. The archer loosed the arrow and it cut through the air silently. Leomourn screamed as the arrow met it’s mark. Amarella looked up to see what had happened, expecting to see the end of an arrow protruding from an eye or a lung. The arrow had luckily only pinned Leomourn to the foremast. Darella attempted once again to strike the one who was commanding all the pain on the battlefield. She pulled herself halfway up with one arm and attacked the bears feet, again a miss. Darella cursed and mentioned something about a glare from the banner. Fenrir fell to the ground after his augmented advance made him crash hard into the shield that his attacker had planted. The great shield did not surrender under the force of the half-giant’s advance, instead it was as if the wolf had ran into a tree or mountain.

“Jór!” The bear commanded. At the sound, the shortest, stoutest Jarl ran forward towards the distracted barbarian, grunting with almost every step. He paused a few yards from the amazonian light-wielder. He laughed to himself and adopted a wide stance, he then proceeded to left his legs high in the air alternately and stomped the earth. Ripples and gashes in the earth erupted from his feet and split towards Amarella like some sort of vermin. The earth fell apart below Amarella destroying any footing she had. A normal warrior would have been knocked prone with this new advancement but the innate instincts of the battle field and combat disadvantages allowed this barbarian to bounce and roll away from the faulted earth and regain footing a bit away. Amarella smirked and charged. Jór smirked back as the flicker of his two curved daggers accented his stance.

“Are you going to help me or just stand there surveying the area?!” Leomourn screamed towards Delgen. The dwarf threw up one finger cutting the air and Leomourns lament.

“I haven’t been just standing and surveying, fool!” Delgen said as he turned and came at the pinned archer with fire in his eye. Leomourn winced and pulled away tightly expecting a stern strike from the angered cleric but instead he heard the sound of an arrow plucked from wood and his armour was liberated from it’s ensnarement.

“I was summoning an earthquake.” The dwarf said as he walked away. Leomourn followed and looked down at the chaos that was the battlefield, now with the addition of an earth rending spell from deific origin. Every warrior within the valley paused and had to regain footing as very ground beneath them groaned and split from beneath. Leomourn could feel almost feel the splitting pain the earth must have felt…he could almost…he did feel the pain!

“Delgen!” Lemourn screamed in confusion. The dwarf turned his head also in confusion, but his confusion turned into a visage of horror. Leomourn saw the cleric’s horror and screamed, flailing his hands in pain which caused Delgen to scream. Delgen drew his hammer and threw it right at Leomourn but it veered it’s course and at the last second struck it’s target square in the face.

“Who is that?’” Leomourn screamed in frustration, as he looked behind him at the fallen foe who had moments ago drove a dagger deep into his back.

“I don’t know but his blade is still in your back.” Delgen said as he grabbed the hilt and braced his foot against Leomourn and pulled the dagger from the flesh.

“Mus!” Bjorn howled up towards the Hammerhead, this time in more of a remorseful tone than commanding. Darella missed once again as both her footing and Bjorn’s were compromised by the quake.

“Delgen!” Darella screamed in frustation, as her blade was now stuck fast beneath the foot of her seemingly untouchable opponent. The ebone rogue climbed the column and was upon the bear now, her frustration allowing her to toss all her guile and tact aside and rely on her sheer strength and nature, not too often forgetting that she two was remarkably strong like her sister. She pulled the chin of the screaming, confused bipedal bear high into the air and with her other hand reached far back and summoned a dagger of shadow in her open hand. As the liquid black climbed and manifested into the rogues hand from the shadows below, her fist closed tightly about it and first thrusted it deeply into Bjorn’s back under his ribs, then she pulled the tip across his supple neck, crimson beads danced and slid down the dark fur of the bear. Arrows sunk themselves deep into the flesh of the bear falling from high. The cleric also held his holy sigil up from it’s mithril chain and a searing beam of light burned a long blistering mark in the flesh of the bear.

“Ormr!” Bjorn cried out as blood fell from his neck, the bear form crumpled to the ground, defeated. The Jarl dressed in red looked away from the construct he had been standing over at the time of the earthquake. He tossed his staff on Bernard. The wooden staff bounced once off of the metallic form of Bernard’s chest but in mid-bounce the staff became animated and changed it’s form to that of a serpent. The aberration at once constricted the construct in a tenacious grapple. The Jarl ran now towards his leader and the rogue that had opened his throat to the sky.

The fur writhed once more and Darella saw the beast move once again at her feet, even now as her new foe is advancing swiftly to her right. The fur fell from the standing figure and slowly did he stand muscles glistening in the faint sunlight. Darella trailed her eyes up and down his body…his clean and injury free body!

“What?! I stabbed him in the back! I killed him!” The Jarl reached for his hammer and slowly turned as he smirked down at the rogue. He took his great hammer, whose head was made from a large chest into the air. The coin and baubles shifted within the chest, effectively making each blow much more devastating, the more treasure the more fatal the blow. He struck the rogue as she stood there in anger. One hand on her hip the other subconsciously gesturing, talking to herself about the unfairness and improbability; she never saw it coming. She was knocked far from the basalt stage and crumbled in a heap off in the high grass.

Amarella saw her sister fly over the stage and land out of sight, probably unconscious. This helped tip the barbarian into her famous rages. She even smiled and thanked Bjorn quietly to her self and was quickly upon the stage, cutting down the one called Ormr in one swift motion on her route. She called out to her team that the one called Bjorn had the chest and that they should all attack now.

Amarella battled fiercely with the Jarl and took one two warriors as the one called Ulfr joined. Delgen blasted off dwarfen signs and spells to harm and hinder the Jarls and Leomourn spent all his remaining arrows on the stage of stone. Only half as many reached that far as the Jarl called Haukr intercepted all the arrow that would pose a threat to his leader in mid flight, with his own arrows. Fenrir battled Uxi but was falling to the arcane bolts launched but the ivory lance. The blood and gore continued as the din of metal and flesh rose in the valley to a chaotic crescendo and then at once was cut by silence at the mark of one specific sound.

Bjorn’s hammer fell and the lid of the chest gaped open not unlike the mouth of some dead defeated beast. Coin and jewels poured from the chest like emesis, but one bauble shown brighter than all the wealth in the valley. The Key to the Mouth of Heaven.

Chapter Thirteen

The Flame of Time gabrielegandrake