|The Stalwart Colossus|
Lore[edit | edit source]
Chill winter air howled across the weathered rocky face of the overlook, kicking up scintillating sheets of icy snow that obscured the view of the large brass spyglass poking out from beneath a mound on the gray ridge. Muttering, high pitched and muffled by the snow, rose desultorily to meet the icy spray.
"This isn't going to be easy, lass."
The snowy mound shivered for moment and then burst away as Ellen stood, shaking the snow off of her fur-lined cloak and revealing the gnome Chamfer, her constant companion, laying in the snow next to her. It was Chamfer that spoke, his tiny voice high in the thin air. Ellen's voice was deep and rich alto to his soprano complaints.
"He wouldn't have sent us if this was going to be easy, would he?"
She meant Tyr, the War Titan. Once, Ellen and Chamfer had been mortals, like those they spied now across the snowy canyon manning the wall of a stone keep atop the peak on its western edge, but those days were long past the pair of adventurers. They had been agents of Tyr for centuries now, immortal in his service. For any other titan, Ellen imagined, such a term of service would be interminable, but Tyr was unlike his brethren; he saw humans not as subjects to be lorded over or cared for, but as fellow warriors that would stand at his side and fight with him, not for him.
Besides, she thought with an amused smirk, could a friendship like ours survive the toils of mundane life? Ellen doubted very much that Chamfer would have been the friend he was, if not for the call to join the Battles Above. In fact, they would have never met at all.
But they did meet, and together they answered the call not as individual champions, but as a team; partners against a common foe. When their battle was over, and they joined Tyr in his golden hall, it was this friendship that impressed him the most and it was the reason he turned to them so often to deal with his troubled followers.
"You can see the banners pretty clearly, can't you?" Ellen muttered as she shielded her eyes from the glare of the noontime sun and gazed across the valley.
"Aye. They're Tyr's boys, for certain." Chamfer nodded as he collapsed his spyglass and slung it from a loop of leather at his belt at his side. He turned away from the valley, taking Ellen's hand.
"We should get going. Tyr won't want us to wait." Ellen nodded as the duo began the climb back down to their camp, her left hand gripping the hilt of her sword nervously as they picked their way through the snow and rocks. She said little, wondering how best to approach the Cult of Tyr, waiting on the other side.
The Cult of Tyr had swept through the mountain villages of the Dragon's Teeth all year and now that winter was choking the mountain passes, they had finally come to rest in Hollan Thar, what the lowlanders called the High Vault. It was a fortress, a fortified monastery devoted to Astra. Or it had been, until the Cult of Tyr had murdered the monks and claimed the place as their winter home in Tyr's name.
That's why Ellen and Chamfer were there, in fact. The Cult of Tyr had finally gone too far in their quest to bring war to the Lands Below and it was up to Tyr to set it right, lest Astra decide to deal with the problem herself, breaking a truce the titans had maintained between themselves since the Pact had been made. He had sent Ellen and Chamfer with a simple goal, and he didn't care how they accomplished it: Drive the Cult of Tyr out of the mountains and away from those places that were Astra's.
"Are we really going to do this?" Ellen asked, nervously. It was Chamfer that had come up with the solution and, Ellen had to admit, she knew it would work, but she worried that they were interpreting Tyr's words a little too literally, this time. What Chamfer proposed, was no less than herding the cultists; literally driving them before the duo all the way back down the mountain.
"That" said a voice from behind them, deep and sonorous, "Is the question, m'lady. Isn't it?" Ellen drew her sword as she spun around, Chamfer no less prepared as he crouched low in his own turn, the black metal sphere of a gnomish explosive in his hand, ready to throw. Their actions brought little more than laughter though, from the one who had suddenly appeared behind them and as soon as the duo saw the figure for who he was, they knew why.
"Ulreth!" Ellen practically spit the name as she stood taller, haughtily sheathing her blade. Chamfer, for his part, stayed where he was, eying the tattooed warrior suspiciously.
"We'll not fight the likes of you here, Ulreth. Our master has forbidden it." Ellen looked down at Chamfer as she spoke, as if the message was more for the gnome than Astra's champion.
Ulreth nodded, his hands out before him in a gesture of peace, "I am an observer only, fair knight. Here to ensure Tyr cleans up his mess."
Chamfer snorted as he stood, replacing his bomb in one of the many pouches hanging from his belt, "Perhaps if you and the lady you served were more honest, I'd find comfort in that."
He turned, done with the tall muscled form of Ulreth, "Come along, lass. We've got a herd to drive."
Ellen eyed Astra's servant warily, her gaze falling on the horn slung at Ulreth's side. Suddenly, a malicious grin blossomed across her face and she swept her red hair back, before pointing at it. Her concern in the whole affair had been the Cult of Tyr turning against the titan. She feared they would be recognized as Tyr's agents. As the Cult of Tyr, the warriors were bound to Tyr's Code and fight with honor, but betrayed by the titan they consider their god... they may become something far, far worse than the invading force they already were. Ulreth's appearance, however, gave the pair an out and Ellen wasn't about to let it go unused.
"Oh Chamfer, I do believe our friend here has elected to join our cause." Chamfer stopped in his tracks, spinning around once more to glare, incredulous, at Ellen. It was a look Ulreth shared: Total confusion.
Ellen pointed to the horn, once more, "Oh yes, and that is going to make this oh so much easier." Chamfer followed her finger to see the horn and the same grin flitted across his face as well.
"Oh, is that so?" he nodded to himself, turning to walk the remaining distance to their camp as he spoke, "In that case, he'd better get going. There's no room on the dragon." Chamfer stalked off, leaving Ellen and the confused Ulreth on the path.
Ellen explained, quickly, their plan to drive the Cult out of the High Vault and the role Ulreth would now play in the process, passing the whole thing off as the actions of Astra. Soon that infectious grin was on Ulreth's face as well and he nodded as he turned and stepped away, disappearing as was his wont. Ellen nodded to herself and sprinted after Chamfer, smiling as she went.
"Tyr appreciates that we're clever, lass. But Ulreth is dangerous. Let's hope you picked the right day to play this game my way, eh?" Chamfer was resting against what looked like a massive boulder, but he was patting it affectionately, as if the rock was more than mere stone.
"Are you ready for this, Ellen?" He went on, "She's no autodrake. She's a mind of her own and the power to act on it, if you let her." Ellen snorted as she approached the gnome, placing her own hand gently on the craggy face of the boulder.
"Which, I suppose, is why you volunteered me to ride her while you stayed comfortable atop the 'drake, little man." Ellen reached out to tussle the gnome's hair, but he ducked out of the way with a grin, stepping away to whistle shrilly into the high mountain air, calling for his autodrake.
"Aye. I suppose it is at that." He said, still smiling as the 'drake drove out of the clouds to land behind him, "We should tarry naught, there's no telling if Ulreth will wait for us to be in position."
He leapt aboard the autodrake and guided the incredible machine into the sky once more before yelling, "Good luck!" as he steered the 'drake away into the distance. Ellen turned to the boulder, patting it once more.
"Are you ready, girl? It's time." Ellen said. As if in response, the ground seemed to tremble, the large boulder she stood before shivered and shook, before unfolding to reveal the massive form of the Wardhammer. Short of a mountain itself, it was the largest dragon Ellen had ever seen and certainly the largest she would ever ride into battle.
Its front arms and its massive head were rugged and gray, the boulder itself made live, but its hindquarters were golden scales, dwarfed in size by the rocky forward-facing armor of its ridged head and massive forearms. The dragon turned an eye to regard Ellen and chuffed, almost impatiently, as if it was waiting for her, not the other way around. Ellen laughed at the sound and took her place as rider, just behind the protective ridge of the dragon's skull.
"Very well!" she said, still laughing, "I'll waste no more of your time!" and with that, she secured her seat and urged the beast into the sky. It shot forward at incredible speed on a cloud of glowing golden dust, moving far faster than anything its size should have right to. The effect lasted only a moment, but even as the beast slowed to its normal cruising speed, Ellen found herself high above the mountain valley, the High Vault clearly visible below her.
Already, Ulreth was in position, standing atop its wall, larger than life. Ellen couldn't hear his words, but she knew the servant of Astra had a flair for the dramatic and could easily imagine the threats he was pouring down on the cultists, giving the Cult of Tyr one last chance to leave unscathed. It was an offer they clearly did not accept.
There was a loud crack of stone shifting and reforming and at the corners of the vault's wall, the parapets morphed and reformed themselves into elemental towers, each turning to bear on Ulreth. The tall warrior shook his head sadly and said something, before bringing to horn to his lips and sounding a double note, a summons. Ellen knew it was time.
Ulreth stepped off the vault's wall and disappeared, reappearing beside Ellen, hovering in mid-air.
"Those towers will protect them well. They won't leave until their protection is taken from them. I'm sure it will pain my Lady to see them gone, but you have our permission to destroy them, good knight."
Ulreth nodded to Ellen before stepping way and disappearing again. Fine, she thought, then that's our first target. She kicked the flanks of Wardhammer and began a slow dive towards the vault, giving Chamfer the time he needed to fall in behind her and assault the vault in earnest.
As they came within range of the towers, Ellen raised her hand, motioning Chamfer to stay behind her dragon. The Wardhammer cried in defiance as each turret turned to fire on the creature, soon joined by the loosed arrows of the panicked cultists, below. Fireball after fireball struck the Wardhammer square between the eyes, but like the arrows, they seemed to bounce off the creature, as harmless as drops of rain upon a roof. Thanks to the rocky armor on its forearms and head, Wardhammer was nigh invulnerable to frontal attacks, and Ellen intended to use that to her advantage as she move to each elemental tower in turn, destroying them with the excoriating light of the Wardhammer's attack.
Chamfer stayed close behind Ellen and the Wardhammer and with each attack, the Wardhammer bathed the gnome's autodrake in golden light that seemed somehow warm and wholesome. Minor dents and scratches the autodrake had acquired in its long life of service seemed to fade away and Chamfer felt better than he had in years. Better than he had since the Kil'Nari had healed him, in fact. The last of the elemental towers fell as Chamfer realized that the Wardhammer's golden light was healing him and repairing his autodrake. He realized that properly used, the Wardhammer would make its rider's team invincible and with a whoop of joy, he urged his autodrake forward.
"Now to drive the cattle, eh?" he said as he streaked by Ellen, spraying burning oil down upon the vault's courtyard. He was too far away still to do real damage to those inside, but the rain of hot oil would still burn and, he hoped, make it clear that the day was lost for the Cult of Tyr. Ellen shook her head at the gnome, as she wheeled the Wardhammer around to strafe the courtyard as well. So far, it seemed, the plan was working well.
The cult's forces were mundane, mortal and ordinary, their steel weapons and arrows were no match for the two dragons and the experienced champions that road them. The Cult of Tyr soon found they had no choice but to flee and thanks to the High Vault's location, there was only direct to flee towards: Down the mountain into the valley below. All according to plan.
The "battle" as it was, took less than a day. As the afternoon sun sank finally beyond the horizon, Ellen and Chamfer were in high spirits. They had succeeded. In fact, Wardhammer had proven more powerful than they realized and what they had thought would be an arduous battle had in fact been more akin to fun. The cultists really had fled before them like cattle and the Autodrake, whenever damaged, was simply healed by Wardhammer's golden light. Victory was almost so easy as to be boring, in truth.
All that remained for the pair was to ensure the cult of Tyr would not simply return to the vault when they were gone, so they wheeled their dragons around and Chamfer used his explosives to choke the pass with debris. It would take more than the winter to clear the pass and Chamfer and Ellen knew that would give Astra and her servants more than enough time to secure the vault from further attack. It was, in short, a job well done. It could not have gone more perfectly.
Or so they thought.
As the last of the rockslides they created filled the pass, the pair looked at each other and nodded in satisfaction. As a unit, they wheeled north, ready to head home to Tyr's Golden Hall in the Battles Above, but they found their path blocked by none other than Ulric, atop the menacing black silhouette of a Spinereaver.
"Either you are greedy fools or Tyr sent you here to die. Return the Blood Savior now."
Ellen's eyes narrowed as she struggled to parse Ulreth's meaning. What was the Blood Savior? She doubted Ulreth would give them time to ask. Their alliance, it would seem, was over. Grimly determined, she maneuvered to put her Wardhammer between Ulreth and Chamfer. If it was to be a fight, she would use every advantage this remarkable dragon had given her...
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