Ciaron paced uneasily from one end of his tower to the other as the clear night slowly turned to overcast. Every few minutes, he could swear he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. But each time he turned to look to the ground below, all he saw was the gentle rustling of leaves in the light wind. He was about to turn away, when the glint of metal suddenly caught his eye. It took barely a second for the realization to register in his mind, and he ran for the tower's alarm bell.
From out of the trees an arrow sailed, piercing his right shoulder. He fell to the ground in pain, but managed to pull himself back up as another volley struck him in the back. He staggered forward, and grasped for the rope hanging from the bell-clapper. Hanging onto the rope with his left hand, he shook it desperately for as long as he could maintain consciousness. Before the cloak of death swept over him, he heard the reassuring sound of alarm bells going off throughout the city towers...
Elsewhere along the walls, the alarms were sounded. Voluroff listened from his dark perch as the guards were roused from their barracks, followed by the satisfying sounds of explosions and screams of agony. Before taking out the tower gate guards, he had set magical traps on most of the western city's guard barracks. In opening the doors to their barracks, the guards had sealed their own fate. Such wonderful creatures, Voluroff thought to himself. So brave, so passionate, so...predictable.
Now that the first phase of his job was complete, it was time for his comrades to join in the fun. He quickly moved to the control room, where two bodies lie in their own pool of blood. With several dozen cranks of the winch, the gates to the city now stood wide open. His comrades then charged the opening and spilled into the city streets.
All Voluroff had to do now was discover the location of a powerful relic that Lord Tymor kept sealed away somewhere within the castle's depths. Voluroff knew that a man such as Tymor would never willingly reveal its location, even if he were tortured to the point of death. No, this would require a different kind of persuasion, and Voluroff knew the perfect solution. Tymor would never give up the relic to save his own life, but to save the life of his granddaughter...well, that was another matter entirely.
As Koric sat at his desk, reviewing the latest reports, the sound of alarm bells rose from the darkness outside the study's ornate windows. Koric shot from his chair, sprinting out the front door of his home and into the street. By the time he got outside, he could see the smoke and flame starting to rise up from the west, where the invading army was already burning the city's outer buildings. He gave a quick shout to several nearby guards, and headed off toward the battlefront.
With the sabotage of the western guard barracks and the main city gates devoid of guards, the bulk of the invaders were inside the city walls by the time Koric and his troops engaged them. Goblins, orcs, and other goblin-kin outnumbered his men some five-to-one, but Koric's men were seasoned fighters, and far superior in hand-to-hand combat. Battle was met within minutes, and Koric and his men were at first successfully beating back the invaders. The battle remained in their favor for several minutes, at least until the moment that several thin, dark figures appeared on the rooftops and walls near the western gate.
In the dim firelight, Koric could barely make out any details of the new arrivals. But, when several of the dark figures let loose of volley of magic spells, the brief light was all Koric needed to recognize his new foes. As Koric and his men battled the goblins, Drow mages and archers unleashed their deadly air assault. Arrows rained down on the soldiers, swiftly disposing of a portion of Koric's front lines. Next came a second volley of magical missiles, lightning bolts, and all manner of magical destruction.
The left flank of Koric's line crumbled, and the remaining soldiers on that side turned to retreat. They were greeted by a fiery explosion in their path, engulfing them in flames along with the few goblins that had been foolish enough to pursue. The outlook was becoming very grim for Koric and his men, when a crack of thunder rang out, and a burst of intense lightning lanced out from the dark clouds overhead and struck at the heart of the goblin army.
Koric glanced behind him, and spotted several robed figures standing a few dozen yards back. He could make out the symbol of Soryn, goddess of wind and storm, adorning their robes. From overhead, another bolt of lightning leapt to the ground and scattered another group of goblins. Koric was thankful for the help, but wondered what the priests would demand in return. The wild nature of their goddess meant they would only help as long as it was in their best interest.
The battle waged on, as soldiers, goblins, wizards, and priests all joined into the fray once more. There was much of the battle that went by in a blur of motion and blood. After what seemed like hours of fighting, Koric could only recount brief moments when something new caught his attention. His second-in-command taken down by the fury of a fireball; several of the Drow mages blown off the city walls by Soryn's priests, follow by the collapse of the western wall.
The goblin lines finally broke away and retreated back out of the city. It was small victory, which came at an all too terrible price. Nearly a quarter of the city lay burning or reduced to rubble, and more than half of Koric's troops and volunteers were dead or severely wounded. As a small group of men continued to pursue the invaders out past the city limits, the remainder of Koric's forces set about containing the fires, tending to fallen comrades, and rescuing civilians trapped in the rubble.
While they set about their recovery efforts, Koric's thoughts were troubled by something in the back of his mind. It was something he had glimpsed during the battle, and in the urgency of the moment, hadn't given it a second thought. Now, the image of a lone figure sailently stalking the shadows came to the fore of his mind. It was dressed in a dark hooded cloak, attempting to sneak away from the battle and heading in the direction of the castle.
The image brought upon him a sudden sense of dread. He tore himself away from his work and rushed back to the castle fortress. He was greeted at the entrance of the fortress by an angry scream and the sounds of battle coming from inside his house, which stood just outside the entrance. He burst through the door, only to discover his sister Sele fending off the attacks of the cloaked figure he had seen earlier. On the floor lay two dead guards that had engaged the intruder only moments before.
Koric charged at the intruder, and the two struggled for a few minutes before the intruder managed to sneak in under Koric's defenses. The blade of a small dagger sunk deep into Koric's side, and he reeled backward from the pain. As he struggled to get back on his feet, the intruder closed in for the kill. Just as the intruder went to strike, however, both were momentarily distracted by the sudden scream of Koric's daughter.
Auriana's scream resounded throughout the house, her blood coursing through her veins as she watched her father stagger backward, a bloody dagger in his side. Sele was desperately trying to lead her out of the house, away from danger, but Auriana had been horribly transfixed by the battle before her. As the desperation of the moment took hold, a surge of energy shot from her outstretched hand and slammed into the intruder, violently propelling him across the room.
The momentary distraction was all Koric needed to pull the dagger from his flesh, and he flung it at his assailant with all the strength he could summon. Between the raw magic of the blast and the sudden sharp pain of his own dagger impaling itself in his shoulder, the intruder hastily sought a means of escape. He pulled the dagger from his dark skin, gave the charging Koric a swift leg kick, and stumbled out the back and into the darkness of the night. Koric tried to follow, but lost his quarry in the shadows of the city.
As Koric headed back into the house, Voluroff sat in the shadows and tended his wounds. He silently brooded in the dark, insult added to his injuries by the fact that his defeat came at the hands of a child. To make matters worse, the city's temporary victory in battle would have been short-lived if Voluroff had succeeded in his task. He had been hired to ensure his clients gained possession of the relic held within the depths of the central keep, whether or not the city fell to the invaders. However, he knew that if he returned empty-handed, he would be hunted down and killed for his failure, also ensuring he could never reveal his clients' secrets.
Under his breath, Voluroff vowed he would have his revenge upon Koric and his little brat, and anyone that got in his way would share their fate; especially those who would dare to hunt him...