The Light Empyrean
Prologue Part II
The Dragon’s Roar
Korrin, Dragonborn Soldier, once in the service of Garrak, now a mercenary without brethren or employ, rose at dawn and went to the coach-yard of the Brass Moon, a tavern of less reputable clientèle where he was staying, to perform his morning exercises. This close to Aldar, there weren’t too many places that a character of his affiliation could go without attracting unwanted attention. This was the kind of place where nobody asked questions, because they were bound to get a very physical answer they didn’t like. It was still bound to be brimming with Echran scum, but at least they should keep themselves to themselves in the Brass Moon. It was the lesser of the many evils this close to Aldar...
Aldar, once the shining jewel of Garrak’s cities, now lay in the hands of its foe, the Echra, and here Korrin was, a mere sellsword, bereft of employ, wandering the once safe lands of his forebears. This thought was always at the back of Korrin’s mind of late…
The air was cool and crisp in the coachyard, just the way Korrin liked it. Perfect for keeping him alert. After a few minutes of careful stretching, he took up his trusty halberd and began practicing a number of forms, mimicking attacks and defenses against an invisible foe. In the waxing morning light, a purple star on the horizon watched his practice with interest, before making way for the rising sun…
Something smashed inside the tavern. An unmistakable precursor to chaos. Korrin stopped mid-swing and listened carefully, but all was oddly quiet. Jogging to the side door of the tavern, he pushed it open partway to look inside.
At a small table by the bar sat a pair of tieflings who had, until a few moments ago, apparently been taking what passed for breakfast in this place. Now, however, the oatmeal bowl of the cloaked tiefling lay in pieces in a corner and the pair were surrounded by four large human men.
Not just any human men – Echran men. Korrin didn’t even need to look at the symbols of affiliation adorning their shoulders, he could smell it on them. One of them was holding a large axe at arm’s length away from the other tiefling. The head of the weapon depicted a magnificent golden sun – surely the pride of any crusader of Pelor. This was going to get ugly.
‘Come and get it, goatface.’ sneered one of the Echrans, waving the axe out of reach of the holy man, whose youthful features remained collected and impassive. Korrin’s experience picked up on the carefully calculating look in the tiefling’s eyes as he watched the axe intently, biding his time…
The cloaked stranger was the first to act. His form flickered and suddenly he was stood halfway across the room from the group, blue-white light flaring from his body (1). He cried out some strange syllable and loosed a bolt of crackling arcane energy at the thug holding the axe. The bolt struck true and the man shrieked a curse and dropped the axe. Immediately, however, two of the other thugs had swords drawn and pounced upon the still-unarmed priest. The other two drew their weapons and advanced on the mage.
Korrin had seen enough.
One injured, advancing on the mage. Drop him to help even the odds, then to the aid of the Paladin – at least the caster has his spells to defend himself…
Bursting through the door, Korrin made a b-line for the injured thug, easily leaping over a chair in his way and using the extra height to bring his halberd down in a devastating slash that felled the scum instantly. As he dropped, the strange flare around the spellcaster grew brighter and a smile crossed the odd tiefling’s lips.
As he turned to the holy man, he saw the tiefling land a brutal body punch on one of the Echrans, but as he did so the assailant behind him drove a serrated blade deep into his back. Blood gushed from the wound.
Filth! Attacking an unarmed, unarmoured man of faith! I’ll be damned if this fight is over… Break the flank, get this man his weapon and get him fighting!
‘Fight like a warrior, you Echran scum!’ roared Korrin and charged the backstabbing fiend (2). He felt the sting of a blade as he turned his back on the adjacent human, but inside his calculating mind it was nothing more than a blip to be dealt with later. As the paladin’s knees buckled, Korrin barrelled into the Echran with the serrated blade, slamming him bodily into a wall. ‘By the gods, you’ll grab that axe and fight!’ blared Korrin at the aghast tiefling, simultaneously parrying a blow from the surprised Echran mercenary who had swung at him out of sheer reflex.
Solace’s mind reeled. A moment ago he had felt agonizing pain and anger at himself for being caught so unaware. Now, he felt a surge of pure adrenaline rushing through him as Pelor sent yet another stranger to his aid in battle. These unfortunate souls would rue the day they stole a holy weapon from under Pelor’s dawning light.
Snatching up his axe with a stinging hand, he swung with the strength only possessed by those who have glimpsed death and spat in its face. The Echran attempted a parry and was knocked completely off balance by the force of the blow. The dragonborn stranger didn’t waste a second and smashed the haft of his halberd into the man’s jaw.
‘STRIKE! NOW!’ (3).
The words launched Solace’s arms into motion all by themselves and the head of his axe almost vanished inside its victim’s chest with the force of his swing. The man fell lifeless to the floor.
Korrin saw the man crumple out of the corner of his eye as he bore down on the filthy backstabbing wretch trying to regain his senses.
...two down and the priest back in the fight – finish this one quickly and blast the last one if he’s still foolish enough to be standing…A quick gambit should destroy the last of his pathetic defence…
Korrin stepped forward, short-hafting his halberd and swinging it in an upward arc, exposing his right flank (4). The Echran took a cut from the blade, but lunged for the opening nonetheless. He never got close, however, as Solace’s axe blindsided him, burying itself in his skull and killing him outright.
As one, the pair turned to the last of the aggressors, but the room was already strangely quiet. They saw the man curled into a ball in the far corner of the room, sobbing quietly, shaking with each new wave of tears. Standing over him was the form of Kadath, the cloaked tiefling who had a maniacal smile on his face and seemed to be watching his subject with intense interest (5).
Victory! By Kord I’ve missed this feeling! And what a victory… This… is something to hold on to. I see… a new beginning…
And a new beginning it was… Korrin felt Kord’s favour upon him for inspiring victory against stacked odds and striking his own personal blow. Not the dragonborn allies he was accustomed to, these tieflings were nevertheless his squad now. Uneven odds meant nothing with his strength and leadership and their combined martial and arcane power.
And as the new day waxed, the sun shone bright on Aldar. The mist swirled and the fountain burbled. Just for a moment, a passing wizard thought he saw the mist thin and a beam of light illuminate the fountain… He dismissed it as a figment of his imagination and continued on his way for breakfast at the Guiding Light Inn.