Meeting Maximus

I circled my foe, dimly aware of a fight going on between my company, and the magma dragon. I would need to concentrate. I took the initiative, and sent a warning shot of sorts at my foe, parrying his counterattack easily. Amidst the clang of steel, he spoke to me.

I realized presently that I was fighting someone that I knew - not just from the Bishkan war, but from the 'tar war. And he had been on my side. It was Stanley, a mere cadet at the time of combat. Apparently after the war, his life had gone sour. He wasn't a decorated hero, and things just got worse for him. He wanted to make a difference, so he joined Bishk.

I wanted more answers, but he wasn't ready to give them. In one somewhat lucky stroke, I sliced through a gap in his armor, and cut through his neck. He lay bleeding on the ground, but the energy dome around us would not disappear until one of us was dead. My options exhausted, I drove my blade into his neck.

It looked like the Company didn't need my help - I saw the dragon get ripped to pieces by a group of ethereal tigers, no doubt summoned by Tibles. All at once, the dragon exploded, and gold coins showered the place. Moira and them looted the place, and I took a couple of Stanley's effects before rushing to Coraline's side. She was badly injured, the wound where Stanley had struck her was black with some form of poison.

It wasn't long before the rest of our forces showed up, pitching tents just out of range of the walls of the imperial palace. The Bishkan empire was likely holed up in there, so we needed to be wary. D'arcy and Tibles did what they could for Coraline, and she gave me the order to rally the troops and seize the parliament building. Before I left, she unclasped her family amulet, and handed it to me. Should she die, she wanted me to have it.

I gave a speech, and was oddly enough cut short when the gates to the fortifications opened, and one lone bearded man, carrying twin sabers stepped out. The doors closed behind him. I addressed him, barking that he needed to identify himself. He was oddly silent. I addressed him a second time, this time telling him just who and what he was dealing with. He remained silent.

Then, out of nowhere, Peregrine launched a volley of arrows, and murdered the man before he'd said anything. Hell broke loose for a couple seconds as the company realized what had taken place. D'arcy tried to catch Peregrine, but he hopped on his wolf and danced circles around the armored paladin. I barked at him to stand down, and he stood up to defy me. I didn't have time for this - I gave the order to have Peregrine captured. He immediately fled.

Tibles and Moira and I entered the fortifications peacefully, and spoke to their second in command. It turns out the forces barricading the parliament were simply refugees from the city itself. They were poorly organized, hungry, and lacked supplies. They told us that the palace was sealed shut, and nobody had found a way inside.

We ordered our troops inside the garrison, and approached the front doors of the grand building. I knocked, and some sort of mechanical locking mechanism gave way. The door swung open.

We walked carefully inside, until Tibles' light source hit some kind of floating barricade in front of us. Like an invisible wall or something. It was blocking the inner half of the throne room. A dark figure revealed himself at the end of the hall, and stepped towards us, taunting us.

He made some smarmy off-handed remark, and then rolled an object into the light. It was Liesel's head. The Empress was dead. I was furious - I started slamming Balmus against the barrier, but it held fast. I ignored Tibles telling me that it was a wall of force, that the figures on the other side were illusions, and other such things, but I was too pissed to listen.

Tibles recognized the man on the other side of the wall as Maximus, the man who had caused the calamity in Lavanda. Beside him emerged another figure, a silent one (apparently he had his tongue cut out) clad in samurai armor. Maximus taunted us a bit more, and then told us we could ask him whatever questions we liked.

Naturally, he didn't give us all the answers we needed, but he gave us some. He hadn't caused a plague in Lavanda, he had wanted to send all the refugees to me specifically, and he was going to march on North Crescent Isle next. So no good news to be seen there.

Before vanishing, he muttered some sort of incantation and Moira's voice became alarmed - she was growing unnaturally cold. A glowling globe emerged from her chest, and drifted lazily towards Maximus, who bottled it, and grinned at us. Tibles realized what had happened - Maximus had stolen her soul.

We carried Moira's now-lifeless body out of the tower, and had some protective wards cast on it. I went to check in on Coraline, but the medic who was tending to her shook his head. Coraline was already dead. There was no saving her.

I stayed and mourned for a while, and we made a plan of attack. I gave the order to have Captain Leafwood and his ship dispatched to us, and all charges on the captain revoked. We boarded ourselves up, waited as long as we could for Peregrine, and set off without him.

In the air, we devised a plan. Maximus was headed towards Ashan, and Leafwood knew how he would do it. He had a massive airship - a giant flying fortress - that had the destructive power of ten armies. We would intercept it, board it, and sabotage its engine. Maximus would have his reign of terror revoked. It was only a matter of time.

—Richard J. Buckles

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