“I’m come for you, Vittorio!”, Akra could be heard echoing through the hallways, although he seemed to be the only one of the heroes who realized that he was getting further and further from the exit of Fort DeWalt with every urgent pace. After his circuitous route was completed, Bellicus Demetrios stood in Akra’s path, pointing him in the right direction. Without hesitation, as though it was the direction he’d been heading all along, Akra raced out the front door and down the road, bellowing Vittorio’s name all the way.
Hrath and Newt were effective in keeping up with the Dragonborn, with the peg-legged Kenichi accompanying the Bellicus not far behind. The sight of the two of them together drew dozens of confused looks from the other soldiers, having just been told that the Bellicus had been assassinated, at Kenichi’s own hands no less.
Well, clearly Demetrios had not, in fact been killed, his presence being proof of that, and more than a few League soldiers raced up to him to express their joy at his continued existence and their relief that there had not, in fact, been an attempt on his life.
“Oh yes there was!”, Kenichi corrected them, one of the few times in the past weeks that his voice could be clearly heard. “It was that damn Glidesh, under the Ecclesia’s orders.” puzzled, the soldiers would rapid-fire questions at the pair, but Kenichi and Demetrios couldn’t spare a moment to satisfy their curiosity – they had a shard to secure!
Once gathered at Vittorio’s pavilion, the heroes saw that their long-time teammates Caedmon and Brogia were already there, and there was much rejoicing. Akra felt little relief himself however, until his rather brusque demands to set his own eyes upon the shard were met.
“Take a rest here, my friends”, suggested Caedmon, “and tell us what really happened. We knew you couldn’t have done what you’ve been accused of, but you should know that there’s already a significant push by Fernanda to have you – and me now too, I suppose – villified for your attempt on Bellicus Demetrios’ life. I don’t think it’ll matter a whole lot at this point that he’s, you know…not dead”.
“Indeed”, added Borgia. “Most indeedidly so. Fernanda – I will not continue to use her former honorific Ecclesia – has planned this event quite well. Other than underestimating your abilities, that is. It appears she’s had factions within our forces which have previously declared loyalty to her…sizable factions. As we speak they are rallying to the ships and executing loyalists. If we want to survive the day, we need to move. Now!”
“Bellicus Demetrov, vot do you vish of us? Shall I remain vith the shard?”. The question from Akra served to snap the dwarf back into the present, and he once again took the demeanor of the military leader he is. After a brief moment to ponder he burst from the tent, started hollering orders, and never stopped. There would be a battle, that’s for sure. And our heroes found themselves on the MUCH smaller side.
The melee that followed lasted less than an hour, but it’s effects will be felt for much, much longer than that. The heroes struggled mightily against Fernanda’s much larger force, at one point even causing the icy-cool Jiki Mal to cry out in despair and, although briefly, join a small group of deserters for whom all hope seemed lost.
Kenichi, on the other hand, nearly single-handedly turned the tide of the battle. From his extended fingertips, and with many a mumbled magical verse, fireballs burst through the opposing forces, thinning their numbers until the heroes eventually outnumbered the traitors, and scattering them to the four winds.
In the end, the loyalist forces prevailed without suffering significant losses. Kenichi nervously accepted praise from the throng which surrounded him (some of them were carrying crossbows, after all). The heroes regrouped around vittorio’s tent. Some time later, Caedmon and Newt hadn’t shown themselves. Jiki Mal, perhaps to cover his own shame at having beat a hasty retreat, suggested that the two may have fled the battlefield. Or worse, what if they joined Fernanda’s army?
Akra was angry at the thought, knowing Newt much better than that. Although, now that he thought, he couldn’t remember having seen her out there once the scene descended into pandemonium. “Not possible. Newt vould not haff fled. She vill return, do not vorry”.
“No. She won’t”. It was Caedmon, who had only just appeared through the flaps of the tent, a large bundle wrapped in a blood-soaked cloak draped across his outstretched arms . The heroes immediately recognized the grim expression on Caed’s face.
“I tried, I swear I tried. I was too late”. He dropped to his knees, choking back tears, and gently lowered the bundle to the ground in front of him. The party didn’t need to ask who was wrapped in the cloak. They knew. Jiki Mal collapsed, instantly grief-stricken. Instinct took over, and being an experienced combat medic, he moved furiously, futilely trying to breath life back into his friend, his love.
INTERLUDE, in which we hear a tale of victory from Caedmon’s past!
Days later the party had set sail for Salerno. Things were about to drastically change, and important decisions by the remaining Faces would need to be made quickly. Initially they made haste, but of course these things never last.
The ship gets violently knocked sideways by a 40’ long predatory sea serpent! The accompanying League soldiers sprang into action and demonstrated their training. They remained calm despite the chaos surrounding them on the heaving deck. While the heroes took up strategic positions, the soldiers manned the ship’s ballistae.
“Watch where you point those things, you clumsy fools”, snarled Kenichi. “You’re going to kill somebody!”
The serpent appeared again, snapping its jaws across the side of the ship and tearing a massive chunk off the railing and deck. Spears from the ballistae deflected harmlessly off of the serpemt’s scales. Fireballs exploded in the air around it. The beast proved to be an enormous challenge. It had very few weaknesses, and only careful aim and concentration allowed any strikes to land true. Waves crashed across the deck, and a panic came across each of the crewmen. Some of them, Akra included, couldn’t resist the terror that overwhelmed them and fled to the opposite side of the ship.
Demetrios took up the space along the railing that had been vacated by Akra, and the heroes continued their efforts. He lifted his axe and watched carefully as the serpent twisted around, waiting for the moment to strike. Just as he lunged forward, a spear from Camillo’s ballista pierces him through the back, a near mortal wound. On his last legs, he withdrew from the railing to spare himself from an ironic death.
The heroes could see how desperate the situation was becoming. The heroic Emilio had already fallen, torn in half as his upper body was swallowed by the monster. Now Bellicus Demetrios was at death’s door. Just when they most needed a game-changing maneuver, Jiki Mal leaped across the deck with his katana flashing above his head. In one powerful stroke, Jiki Mal drew his katana along the serpent’s body, spilling it’s insides in Tauntaunian fashion. Though it fought on hungrily despite the disgusting wound, moments later it swooned backwards and fell back into the sea, sending a wall of water crashing behind it.
Rushing to Demetrios’ side, Jiki Mal once again shows his worth as a combat medic and manages to pull the spear out of the dwarf’s side. He would live, for now at least.
With luck and calm weather the ship manages to hobble into port in Salerno. Vittorio made the suggestion that the Bellicus remain on board. The party was nervous, but Akra provided assurance that “Victor and Demetrov” could keep the shard safe while they made their way to the capital building. There a very nervous guard reluctantly agreed to let the party enter, but only on the condition that they keep a very low profile. No problem.