The charr broke free from their fear and charged at us, but the gates of the academy closed behind us just in time. Once inside, we noticed that the dark room was illuminated by a bright portal in its center.
“What is this?” Aidan asked.
— “This Portal will take us to the Academy at Nolani.” The Prince responded. “From there, we can cross over to Rin.”
“Then we should hurry; who knows how long these wooden doors will hold the charr back.”
“Wait, my lord. Come; look at what I have found.” Erol’s voice suddenly appeared from the side.
— “Is that…?”
“Yes, my prince. I believe it is the mouthpiece for the fabled horn, Stormcaller!”
— “I’ve heard the stories of the horn’s magic. If what they tell is true, we must get it to Rin”, Rurik said, and he picked up the huge but light mouthpiece. “Hurry now, through the portal!”
I stepped out of the circle of light into a small room. In front of me, there was a statue of Dwayna, the goddess of life and air, while above my head I could see the sun setting. The portal flared as Aidan, followed by the flaming scepter mages, stepped out of it.
“Alright”, Rurik said, while walking closer to the room’s exit. “This is the sister academy to the one we left in Drascir. From here, the Wall is not far. We should make it to Rin within the hour.”
He turned towards us as the portal crumbled and faded away; together with the portal, the fear of the charr who were chasing after us disappeared as well.
“Are all of you alright?”
— “Cynn still hasn’t regained consciousness”, Mhenlo answered. “Other than that, I’m fine.”
“Yes, me too.” I said when I noticed the dog. All alone, the animated creature sat at the center of the room, where the portal was just until now, and wailed.
“Dust? What is it?” I asked the dog, as if I was expecting him to answer.
— “I-It’s Blutfaust!” Aidan stumbled. I turned towards him and saw the shock written in his face. “He’s not here!”
We searched the room in all directions, but indeed we could not find the necromancer.
“He… did not make it?”
“But, how? Rurik –”
“I’m sorry”, The Prince responded, having regained his normal self faster than the rest of us. “I do not know the words to open a portal back to Drascir. Whatever has happened to him, he will have to get out of it by himself.”
“Blutfaust is capable of handling himself pretty good.” The monk broke through the depressing atmosphere. “This may be cruel to say, but there’s nothing we can do for him right now.”
“That’s right.” Rurik added. “We are not able to get back to Drascir; therefore, we can only go ahead. We have to make it to Rin. It is probably the only safe place left in this whole country other than the capital!”
As he went outside, he stood on a wide place, open to the left side. Behind an ancient obelisk was a great wooden gate.
“If we follow this road, we will soon reach the wall. Past it lie Rin and Horn Hill, where the main body of Stormcaller is located. Look: there’s a switch just over there, it should probably open the gate!”
— “Wait a moment”, Aidan interrupted him. “Let me check out the other side first. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
The ranger disappeared between the boulders only to return to us little later. “Charr warband. Don’t open the gate!”
“They’ve advanced this far already? That means we can no longer take that route.”
— “There’s another passage over there.” Aidan pointed towards the east. “We should be able to get past those charr if we follow that trail. However, I think it would be best to let someone stay behind together with the mages.”
“No.” The monk interrupted him. “We should stick together. There isn’t too much time left until sunset, so we should hurry and try to sneak around those charr.”
— “Mhenlo is right”, Rurik supported him. “‘We haven’t been noticed yet; we should take advantage of that and hurry to leave this place. Follow me!” He ran towards the east, where a crushed gate led away from the academy’s main plaza and towards the Great Northern Wall.
After some hundred meters, we finally arrived at the wall. Along the way, we found the corpses of three unlucky soldiers who had fallen prey to the devourers’ poison. We buried them quickly and then hurried on, knowing that we marched in today’s daylight’s final hours. As we got closer to the wall, we were relieved to see the giant wooden gates still intact and guarded by soldiers of the Ascalon Army.
“Prince Rurik!” The watchman was surprised to see us. “What are you doing out here?”
— “Open this door; quickly!”
“But sir”, the other guardian replied, “the king swore death if the door was opened!”
Visibly angered, the prince threw the words right back to the guard: “And I swear death if you don’t stand aside this instant!”
This convinced the guards. Hastily, they saluted Rurik before they opened the gate.
“I defend Ascalon against another charr invasion, and my father trifles with doors. I can’t believe –” Suddenly, Rurik cut his sentence. The wall’s doors had only opened partly, but the gap was big enough to let him see Rin. Or what was left of it.
“By Balthazar’s beard!” he shouted, running towards the still barely opened gate. “Rin burns! We must go to Horn Hill! Only Stormcaller can save the city now. You there”, he shouted loosely in the doorkeepers’ direction, “come with us! There’s no sense in keeping a way sealed if the enemy’s already taken control of both sides of the route.” Running, we followed him.
We ran and ran, but the horn did not seem to draw closer. What was supposed to be a hill eventually was revealed to be the top of the mountain we were standing on, with the mighty body of Stormcaller carved into the cliff side. Finally, we reached the top. Luckily for me, since I no longer was a living being, I did not feel exhausted.
Rurik walked up to the platform, lifted the mouthpiece, and put it onto its socket where it had been taken from a long time ago.
“Praise be to Dwayna if this works.” He took a deep breath before he blasted on the horn. With a deep and loud voice, the legendary horn, said to once have been owned by King Doric, ruler of the united kingdoms in Tyria and savior of worlds, himself, called out to the sky. The mountain trembled under the resonance of Stormcaller’s call. We cast our eyes towards the sky as it darkened even further and thick rain clouds devoured almost all of what was left of the sun’s light. Then, with a loud clap of thunder, the heavens started to cry and unleashed a sudden downpour onto the dried-out earth of Ascalon.
“That’s it? The legendary horn Stormcaller…”
“Calls upon the rain?”
“How on earth is that going to save Ascalon from the charr!”
“So it was just a myth after all. We should have expected that, given for how long the mouthpiece has been lost. Still –”
— “Watch out!” Aidan called, as he grabbed Erol and together, they hit the floor. The very next moment, an arrow struck the place where the mage just stood.
“It’s the Charr! They noticed the horn and now they’re closing in from the sides!” Mhenlo was right. The charr were already running up the mountain from both left and right. We took shelter behind the horn in order to escape from the charr archers’ field of vision and together with Aidan, I opened fire on the charr charging at us. But I quickly noticed that something was not right. The agile beasts, usually overflowing with ferocity and fighting spirit, approached only slowly, holding their shields in front of them. One died from an arrow, another slipped on the mud caused by the rain and fell to his death. Before long, only about half of the attacking soldiers remained. These slow and clumsy charr surely did not live up to their reputation.
“So, what is that one doing?” Devona asked, pointing at the charr mage who stayed with the archers. Running into the archers’ field of vision would be as good as suicide, so the warrior had to stay behind the horn. I looked at the mage below us. He stood just behind the archers, and was performing a strange ritual while he emitted flames from his bare hands and sent them flying towards the other charr. Then I noticed it. Remembering the flame wielder who drew strength from Cynn’s magic, I shouted: “It’s the rain! They’re weak because it put out the flames!”
— “Then that guy -” Aidan turned around, now facing the mage. “- is strengthening them!” He took another arrow and aimed for the charr: “I won’t allow it!”
Just before the arrow hit, one of the archers jumped in front of the mage, and blocked the projectile with his body. Aidan cursed as he had to take cover to avoid the other archers’ arrows. But then, the door behind the mage burst as human soldiers stormed the place and slayed the mage along with his bowmen in a surprise attack.
Meanwhile, the remaining charr finally closed up to us and the warriors, released from the risk of becoming an easy target for the archers, were able to fight back. Blood spit all over the place as the cat’s skull burst, crushed by the force of Devona’s forceful attack. I wanted to assist, but I was too slow, the warriors too fast. Rurik lifted his weapon just in time; then, the two blades clashed and sparked as the charr tried to overpower the warrior. Weakened or not, in terms of brute strength, a charr surpasses a human by ease. But Rurik knocked his enemy back, broke his defense as he hit him with his shield. The next moment, the flaming blade of Sohothin burnt its way through the soldier’s breastplate, and burnt out the charr’s heart it pierced.
The beasts were defeated. We turned around, towards the plaza below us, which those other humans had stormed.
“Who are those men?” I asked. “They seem to be fine soldiers.”
Then I heard the prince’s voice behind me. “Put aside your weapons. The battle is fought. The king has arrived.”