Despite our so-called victory, it takes a few days for the revolution to build. The quadrant leaders are all reluctant to commit — wanting detailed plans and still more demonstrations of our strength. They are scared and self interested, demanding assurances of victory before lending aid.
But how can we plan a revolution — let alone assure victory — without knowing what our resources are? We are visitors to this accursed city, yet they provide no insights. It’s both frustrating and infuriating.
In the end we decide we cannot depend on anyone other than ourselves. But as soon as we declare our intention to attack the gates, Orral says the tunnel people will lend aid. Well and so.
We will attack in two days time at midday during the Festival of Elloran.
The day of revolution comes at last. The Council has withdrawn all forces behind the walls of the Bastian. The town is holding its breath as we march towards the gates, people joining us as we move through the streets at the head of a growing throng. The tunnel people are carrying large nets and assorted weapons. Other townspeople are joining them.
The steel and coal quadrants hold back, still not committing. Cowards.
We arrive at the gates. All is quiet; the wall crawlers and guards on the wall watch and wait.
Our plan is simple. Attack, defend and await the Colossus. Fen has learnt a new protection spell and cast it upon each of us. Blaze has brewed more healing potions. We are as prepared as we can be. It feels sorely inadequate.
Blaze and I commence by warping some of the crawlers. Alix sets a blade barrier along the top of the wall. Then the gates open and the first wave of Council forces emerge.
It’s a phalanx of automata and elite guards. The guards peel off right and left — I lose sight of them quickly. The automata keep coming, surging towards us, three abreast. Nightshade stands on my right, Blaze on the other side of her. Together we meet the onslaught of these magicked machines.
The automata keep on coming and coming and coming. No sooner do we hack one into oblivion than it gets dragged back to make room for another. And another. These are the ‘guardian’ class automata Orral told us about. The toughest, meanest, hardest to defeat. I know not how many I’ve destroyed, only to face the next.
I cannot see what is happening elsewhere in the battle. Every so often I hear a loud cheer from back in the town and the air is filled with the ringing of steel, the scent of blood. Some of it’s my blood, and that of my companions. None of it belongs to these cursed automata.
They keep at us. I keep swinging until I’m not sure I can take much more. My vision is swimming and my arms feel about to drop off.
But we’ve achieved our first aim. Ahead, still within the Bastian, but lumbering ever closer, is the Colossus. The Eye of Varrien smoulders like an ember in its forehead, casting a reddish glow over the swarm of wooden machines in its path. It moves at ponderous speed, inexorably closer.
I’ve never seen anything like it. The bodies. The blood. And yes, the heroism.
Alix swept the wall clear of enemy troops with a wall of her own, one of flashing blades. Then the enemy flooded from the citadel, and my compatriots met them in the street, shoulder to shoulder. A constant stream of soldiers and automata came upon them, to be hacked down mercilessly.
I ran my magics down to empty, expended all my healing potions, keeping my colleagues in the fight. My chief offensive act was a fireball, to deter what I perceived to be a mage attempting to raise dead soldiers. I shudder to think of this unnatural act. Stopping it merited the destruction wrought by my spell.
At one point, our flank was threatened, and here I was able to lend support, in the form of a stinking cloud to slow the enemy advance, and then with swings of my club until reinforcements put the foe to flight.
How valiantly the city folk fought. One lane was so covered in dead and wounded, I could not see the flagstones. What an appalling waste.
I can feel the energy of my goddess running through me. After all the deceit and betrayal on the part of my former comrades – the ranger killed me; she shall regret her treachery – the cleric finally succumbed. Varrien is too powerful for the homely shield of Shadrath to ward against for long. The world shall soon know just how powerful she is. All shall soon know her wrath … and, if they are meek, her generosity.
It was a mighty battle. We marched straight up to the gate of the citadel quarter, full of half-hatched plans and bravado, and the elite guard came out to meet us, in league with the cursed automata as expected. But we held the line, drawing them in twos and threes down the narrow street and despatching them thus. From the bellowing and sounds of clashing iron around us, all of Tel Marrenor was up in arms. The tunnel people had birthed their ridiculous revolution at last, though I cared not for the outcome so long as it kept busy the extra swords and machines which might otherwise be troubling us.
Then the Colossus began to move.
We were still fighting automata and not yet ready to face such a foe and so, as soon as I caught glimpse of it I cast a sleet storm in its path. Thank Varrien for my newly acquired spells!
And thank Varrien too for her tightening grasp upon the cleric’s will. I had seen for days how troubled Alix had been, how carrying the Eye vexed her, and it must finally have proved too much. In the heat of battle, I heard her call my name. A desperate plea!
I turned and there she was, running toward me with arm outstretched and in her hand … the blessed gem. Freely, she gave it to me, pressed it into my palm and closed my fingers around it. It felt like a key slotting home after too long an absence. It felt like my heart could beat again.
I don’t remember too much of what happened next. The Colossus was upon us and we fought, maces clashing against stone. I don’t think I was hit; if I was, my goddess cast her benediction over me and I felt no pain. All I could think of was the second Eye, that bright red beacon in the monstrosity’s head. It filled my vision, and my soul.
Then the Colossus was slain, crashing to the cobbles with such weight the earth beneath us trembled, and I ran. Faster than I ever have. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw Zillah move as well, but my feet were swifter. Goddess-touched.
And now I have them both, the blessed Eyes of Varrien. I can scarcely believe it! At long last this ungrateful world will know its end.
What the hell have I done?
I suspected for a while that carrying the Eye would have some effect – I had seen it when Cal carried it and couldn’t doubt it after seeing Nightshade altered – but I really thought that having it sheathed in silver would keep me safe.
I didn’t count on the subtle probing every single minute of the day, nor the more direct thrusts at my will as the golem came closer and closer. Shadrath, help me hold! I kept pleading in my head, but someone else was whispering and She was starting to entice.
We had to fight. We had to stop the automata and keep the citizens motivated. We had to back each other and stay up… and all the time, She was calling.
Tickle, probe, thrust. The golem arrived, bearing the other Eye. Another tickle, another probe and bam! My resistance was gone. I had to get to Nightshade. I knew with bone-deep certainty we would all die if she didn’t get the Eye I carried. Rise, Varrien!
I reached Nightshade, screaming “take it!” and holding out the glove. We were both still in battle, but for a second she had room to move. She reached out and scooped up the Eye, just as the golem fell.
As Zillah and Nightshade raced to tear the Eye out of the golem’s head, I couldn’t turn away. Couldn’t decide who I wanted to win. Zillah clambered atop the golem on hands and feet. Nightshade, on the other hand, tripped along its length as if she was skipping in a meadow. Zillah stumbled, slid back, leaving Nightshade to reach the Eye. She bent, prised it out, stood, an Eye held aloft in each hand.
I wanted to scream with glee. Then Shadrath himself smacked me on the side of the head and my mind cleared.
Now… Now Nightshade holds both Eyes. The battles have stopped. There is smoke in the air and blood on the streets and the sounds of people in pain and dying.
And Nightshade has both Eyes.
My God will have to come here now. One day soon, he and his brethren will have to call us to account. I should have let us die. Instead I gave her the Eye. And look at her now. Jubilant.
Oh, my God, what have I done?
Now the real battle begins. Both Eyes are in the hands of Nightshade, a servant of the dark goddess, and the flail is many weeks of travel away. If the goddess is summoned before we retrieve the holy weapon, what hope do we have of saving the world?
The worst has happened: the two Eyes brought together. We strove to prevent it; yet somehow it seems as though it was always inevitable. I feel helpless, gripped in a relentless tide I cannot control. At least it is almost over.
One gets the sense this campaign is almost over.
What will Nightshade do with two Eyes of Varrien? Will we be able to stop her from resurrecting the evil goddess?
We are about to find out.