Story 2: Terrorism

A group of four Jeshan Shifters crept along a south-facing wall of the City of Realm for a great distance, shuffling horizontally, hiding in the blind spot underneath the parapet. There was a common Stream vein usually very nearby which would have typically prevented this type of intrusion. However, the group had spent a long time earlier in the day, before making this journey, moving that vein away from the base of the wall slowly. They did this so that they could sneak by undetected now and they ensured their tampering would go unnoticed. It had taken them several hours, but now they just needed to avoid being physically sighted instead of detected by the Bessans along the City wall. They slid sideways for close to a mile until they found the hatch near the base of a perimeter tower. Once it was open, they quietly and quickly filed into the dark and cramped tunnels underneath the City. From inside, they closed the hatch and shuttered themselves into darkness. The group lined up single-file in the tunnel and sprinted for the dungeons of the Great Keep, several minutes away.

 

Shortly past the midday hour, the Bessan Shifter 18902 at south perimeter defenses reported a militia hiding in the trees firing arrows at the patrol guards on the south city wall. That section of the defenses has its border against the open wilderness of the land between the southern countryside  and the ocean. While beautiful, however, this area represents one of the most vulnerable potential entry points into the City of Realm.

 

The City Commander took the situation quite seriously and sounded the general alarm. Soon the bell tower of the Keep was ringing out the cry to take up arms or seek shelter. Soldiers began to pile out of their barracks and form up in the streets, marching towards the gates. The City of Realm readied itself for battle for the first time in many generations. People ran from the open marketplaces and common buildings to find shelter in their homes as the deep thunder of the bells echoed through the alleyways.

 

“You hear that mate?” One bandit  outside the wall said, nudging another. “Now we’ve really pissed them off!” A dozen skilled archers and twenty or so really terrible archers were, essentially, preoccupying the entire fighting force of the City of Realm as it pooled behind the south gate, pelting them with misguided and non lethal arrows. There were a smattering of no more than fifty deviant infantry guarding a Jeshan Shifter at the base of the outer fortifications. The Jeshan was not powerful enough to shatter the wall, but could sway it a fair bit. It wobbled and groaned under his influence. More men were hiding further back in the trees, waiting for an opportunity to rend the Realm’s poorly trained soldiers. The raiders were brutal fighters, and these cadets in their colored armor had only their numbers to hide behind. The Realm’s soldiers came pouring out of the gate and into the wood bordering the city wall, scattering into a defensive perimeter. Many more of them came rushing out and filled in behind with their swords glistening bright. A few hundred of them filled a large clearing around the entrance to the city and held their ground.

 

The Jeshan lashed the Stream like a white hot whip against the hard stone surface and had a largely visual effect, rather than actually causing much damage to the structure itself. He did make sure to give it a healthy shove to get the men on top of it fearing he could bring it down. The Shifter waited until the Realm’s soldiers had taken up defensive positions before using the power of the Stream to stick them all in knee-deep mud. A few hundred of them stood paralyzed, or fell over, unable to do anything to escape. Scores of them were butchered by a wave of arrows and more soldiers fell as the rain of projectiles thickened. A group of archers in the deep woods continued to fire at the stranded soldiers, while a few redirected their attention to the walls. The soldiers abandoned the perimeter, as they could not defend it from the Shifter without risking being shot by an archer. The men of Realm stayed away from the walkway where the raiders had range. “There must have been a hundred archers or more, all very well concealed.” Proclaimed the City Commander, disgusted with the turn of events. “Send more soldiers out through the south gate and dispense of the archers first. 500 men!” the Commander said. His steward turned and left to deliver the orders.

 

Meanwhile, Lord Emperor Marion Dimsdale III had gathered the heads of the royal noble houses for a meeting in the war room of the Keep. There, the nobles and their top advisors peered out from the upper levels of the central tower down at the South wall of the city. Smoke was rising from deep in the woods and the first reports were of heavy losses for the Realm. They grumbled over the disturbance and pigeons carried news back and forth from the command center just outside of the protection of the keep, where the City Commander was in charge of the defense of the city. The Lord Emperor turned to his Field Marshal and nodded. The Marshall turned and went about enacting the Lord’s request. The nobles grumbled that no previous Lord Emperor in the last hundred years has been forced to marshall the army and defend the city. “These are strange times.” a noble was heard to say.

 

The Commander, from his lookout a few hundred yards from the Keep, was sure the soldiers of Realm would handle this rabble, despite the initial losses. The Bessan Shifter slave at his side held a vein of weak blue Stream in her hand. “Is everything normal? Are they attacking from any of the other districts of the city?” The Shifter peered into the Stream but did not see what was happening in the passageways underneath the Keep. In their minds, no one could ever get into those underground tunnels because the entrance was constantly monitored. Or at least, so they had thought. Today, however, they had been outwitted by a group of very devious Jeshans. “Everything is fine except for what 18902 has reported at the south wall, all areas say no activity. Stream is undisturbed, no artificial motion, all access points are secure.”

“Excellent.” The Commander said. “We should have this taken care of in no time.”

 

Far outside the wall, close to 10,000 armed raiders were hiding in the woods only a few miles away in a small patch of forest near the coast, waiting for “the signal.” They had been in the area for some time, and none of them were sure what the signal was, but knew that if they waited for the signal, they were sure to go on the greatest raid of all their lives. Many respected sources were very clearly told what to do, and where to look. They did have some riders at the edge of the woods facing north, which they were clear is where the signal was going to be coming from. More raiders were accumulating as word had been spreading for days. No one had any clue what was going to be raided this far south, and in The Realm no less. All the cities in this country are guarded, and the only thing that’s due north is the City of Realm, which none of them were expecting to raid today. As a result, most were thinking they were going to be disappointed  despite the promising quality of the claim.

 

Near the south gate, the distractors had accomplished what they were supposed to, but they had also got the south gate under control and were confronting any that came out of it. The bandits and soldiers of the Realm began to skirmish in the woods, with a terrible advantage going to the raiders in the melee combat.

 

At the blaring sound of trumpets, cavalry of Realm came charging out of the forest with the Field Marshall at the head and trampled any in their path. The cavalry ran through the bandit encampment, butchering the archers in an abrupt and unexpected attack. The bandits looked at each other in dismay “They likely came out of the garden gate!” One of them shouted. “Which I thought we had covered…” In truth, they had simply neglected to send anyone to watch the garden gate. The remaining archers scattered into the woods and the men of the Realm surged.

 

The Jeshan Shifter looked at the wall, closed his eyes while holding on to a vein of Stream and caused it to grow up, and into the City. His time was running out, as his infantry protectors were not going to last much longer. He realized what was at stake and he channeled his concentration into sending it as far into the City as he could.

 

The vein of Stream expanded over the peak of the wall, back down and along the ground in the direction of the Great Keep. The Lords of Realm on horseback spotted the Jeshan Shifter channeling and ordered a full attack. They charged ahead and the infantry guarding the Jeshan held out their pikes; a few with swords behind them stood their ground. The Stream had crept far into the city, but not quite far enough.

 

The Jeshan was quickly consumed in the cavalry charge and was slaughtered, along with the remaining pikes and infantry. His Stream vein started to roll back a little, but then, it accelerated forward until it crept all the way inside the main hall of the Keep. The vein spiraled down the stairs and into the dungeons where the Jeshan Shifters were waiting, calling to it. They had been reaching out and pulling on the Stream towards themselves once their ally Shifter had propelled it far enough for them to grab.

 

In the command center, the Bessan Shifter spotted the Stream vein intrusion. “Sire,” she says flatly, “I think something is happening.”

He sternly looked down at her, perplexed. “What?”

“The Jeshan, he’s…” She trailed off, suddenly realizing along with the others.

 

The cavalry mowed down the last of the raiders outside the city walls and rounded up the remaining soldiers of Realm at the gate. A great cheer went up amongst the men as they stood victorious. “Send a pigeon to the Emperor, young squire,” said one of the Lords of Realm from atop his white steed. “We have won the day!”

 

The Bessans discovered what was happening all too late to do anything about it. These Jeshans had tricked them somehow and had breached their defenses. Now, their worst fears realized, their enemy stood, Stream in hand, right in the beating heart of the Realm.

 

“Oh sire…” the Shifter beside the City Commander said and the Stream fell delicately out of her hand in defeat. She looked at him, eyes wide with terror. “I, I’m sorry…”

“What did you see!?” He screamed.

 

Their run through the dungeons was over and, together, they held the Stream tightly in their hands. One of them clasped a crudely arrowhead shaped crystal and they all marveled at it once it caught the light of the Stream and radiated with power. “Streamstone” one of them said.

 

“It’s going to make us into legends.” Another said. “By the light of the Stream be bound, brothers. For Strayalis!” They chanted together.

 

They closed their eyes, and all clasped the crystal of Streamstone and felt themselves blending back into the Stream, their true home. A great power began to reverberate and amplify between them and the Stone. With the energy of their combined life forces, they commanded the Stream, through the power of the Streamstone, to unleash a violent expansion of the earth around them and to grow as high as possible until all of their vital energy was gone.

 

Suddenly, behind the City Commander, the Great Keep of the City of Realm exploded outward from the base in an expanding, rising ring of solid earth, rock and shocked brick that extended out above the City. The resonating blast grew upward rapidly but blew less outward as it rose higher into the sky. The accelerating blast tapered as it climbed above the city forming a spire of falling earth several hundred feet vertically where the Keep once stood. It reached its crest in an instant and dissipated, allowing the displaced dirt, stone and brick to rain  down upon the City.

 

Mammoth hunks of the fortifications as large as whole city blocks slammed down into the homes of the nobility, merchants and upper class. The area around the mount of the Keep was completely consumed by a great wave of falling dirt and rubble as a shower of debris fell in the majority of the outer urban area that little could hope to survive. Whole tower sections crashed down onto entire neighborhoods and historic districts, erasing them under ten feet of crushing brick in an instant.

 

A burning wave of charged dust came roaring down the streets as the debris fell and it was followed closely by a shockwave that tore grown men right off their feet and cast them aside as the city began to disappear. Millions of homes were obliterated under a crushing rain of earth and brick fanning out in all directions. A great gust of maddening wind was finally cast out from the City as the Keep fell; having breathed its final breath. It did not seem possible that many in the area behind the walls could have  survived the devastation.

 

The outer City wall and districts were pelted with huge pieces of the Keep and rock that had been cast violently and far into the air. They smashed against the ramparts and some blasted through them; sending even more brick debris flying about violently. The extensive damage inflicted on the City and the defenses had exposed it to attack from all directions; there were great gaping holes in the fortifications. Smaller bricks and chunks of the Keep landed in the outskirts, often rolling through many houses before coming to a stop or slamming hard into homes, pulverizing everything around where they land. A cloud of vicious, choking dust then fully enveloped the City and all became lost to sight.

 

No bells rang out, just the faint sounds of screaming could be heard carrying over the wind. The afternoon coastal flow slowly pushed the dust of Realm out to sea as the midday sun sank lower in the sky.

 

The 10,000 raiders stood at the edge of the woods a few miles away, dumbfounded by what they had just seen. “Do you think that was the signal?”

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