18 Calistril – 16 Gozran
It takes about a week to extract all of the siege equipment from the vault. Two engineering companies of Volkov’s soldiers arrive to help and take ownership. During the week, Baron Giles arrives and meets the rest of the party before taking command of the engineers. He’s accompanied by Carries Under Northern Tunnels, a goblin from the clan local to his manor who has been helping rebuild.
After the siege equipment is un-mothballed, the force sets off to the South. The going is extremely slow for the first week, but then Snot asks the local clans for help and sizable contingent of goblins appear after sunset every night to conduct repairs on the equipment and the force begins to move considerably faster.
Two weeks later the force meets up with the rest of Volkov’s army on the North Road and proceed to Westergarde. Before too much longer, they begin to encounter farms that have been stripped. Tyr’s forces had razed fields and taken livestock in order to deprive the army of supplies.
Six weeks after liberating the watchtower, the Emperor’s Army, ten-thousand strong, march on Westergarde. The village that had built up outside the city walls had been razed, leaving a clear killing field around the city. During a planning session Smoot notes that Volkov has made sure that Westergarde can’t be resupplied form the sea. When asked if they had a navy, Smoot replied with a “sorta”.
While the army is deploying, the party meets with Volkov, Smoot, Giles, Vladimir, Diego, and a number of other officers at a pavilion overlooking the castle. Giles is pressuring Volkov to take the wall down with the artillery and Smoot disagrees. Kagdir points out the physics of the Imperial Dwarven walls and notes that they could make a hole in the wall, but it would take nearly all of their powder and virtually eliminate Volkov’s numerical advantage.
The session ends with a cutscene:
A small sally door has opened in the gates of Westergarde, and out it has walked a small woman carrying a bundle in her arms.
The command staff breaks into a murmur, speculating.
And then Matten’s eyes widen. “Ohhhhh shit.”
The woman is of far east descent. She’s simply clothed. In her arms she’s carrying a small basket veritably stuffed with yarn. A small folding chair is hooked over her arm.
And strapped across her back is an Etu’Sauri sword.
You recognize both immediately. Her name is Hajira ap’Salim. The blade is Le’Tu’Fiara: The Weeping Blade. She’s a fourth generation sword-bearer. Her great grandfather having made the choice to keep the Blade in his family. She has been raised, since birth, to dance with that sword, and she is very likely, considering her relatively young age, the most skilled living blademaster.
She walks about fifty yards out in front of the gates before setting down her chair. She arranges the knitting basket beside her, the Blade across her lap, and begins working on what appears to be a winter shawl. She shoots a glance straight at you. She knows you’re here.
It’s not entirely unexpected that Tyr would hire an Etu’Sauri. Since she’s presented herself outside the walls, her contract is likely solely to ensure that no other Etu’Sauri take the field. At least that’s what you hope. She’d likely kill three hundred men before Smoot managed to drop a rock on her.
She’s here to stop…you. She won’t get out of the army’s way until you confront her. And she is going to kill you.
Without turning to Volkov, you say, “General, my master is a good and honorable man. You’d do well to remember that. When the time comes.“
Volkov raises his eyebrow, but nods.
You take a deep and cleansing breath. As you lift your foot to step forward, long, slender fingers grip your shoulder like iron and hold you fast. You turn and look up at a woman, an Elf. The first you’ve ever seen in the flesh.
She’s young, as Elves go. She’s dressed for travel. Dirty, unkempt. There’s a strip of cloth wrapped around her head, covering her eyes. Above and below it are what appear to be scars from fingernails, as if she’d attempted to gouge her eyes out. It’s impossible to tell if she was successful.
Her Etu’Sauri sword, Rii’Tu Delail, The Mad Blade, hangs unsheathed, held limply by the guard in the fingers of one hand, the tip dragging in the dirt.
Her voice is barely a whisper.
“It’s not your time. Lucas needs you.”
She then turns and walks out onto the field.
The look of haughty indifference on Hajira ap’Salim fades quickly when she realizes who is coming for her. She sets down her knitting, stands, and draws her blade. Immediately, dark clouds start to form in the sky above, and a cold rain begins to fall.
The Elf approaches, rain-soaked hair plastered to her cheeks, shoulders slumped, the tip of her blade dragging in the mud. They speak some words to each other, but they are lost in the wind. Eventually, Hajira raises her blade into a guard pose. The Elf simply waits.
And then they move.
History will remember the moment as the last time an Elven Bladedancer took to the field of battle. To most, they were simply a blur of motion, but to the trained eye, it was breathtaking. Without a doubt the most stunning display of martial prowess that most will ever see in their lives.
It lasts nine and a half seconds.
Etu’Ssauri Moriel Celebhen lowers Etu’Sauri Hajira ap’Salim to the ground. She helps the human woman maintain her grip her Blade as she dies. She kisses her gently on the forehead. There is no sound but the rain.
Kneeling, the elven woman meticulously cleans the blood and dirt from The Weeping Blade before placing it in its scabbard. Like the flip of a switch, the rain stops and the clouds begin to break apart in the trade winds from the sea.
She rises and walks slowly back to the lines of the army. She’s bleeding from a dozen wounds. The Weeping Blade is held reverently in the crook of her arm while the tip of The Mad Blade leaves a bloody rut in the mud. When she reaches Volkov she pauses.
“Look what you made me destroy.”
She pushes through the crowd and is gone, and as one, two armies start breathing again.