It was on the afternoon of Friday, 4 January 1413 that the “lost heir” to the Stonehelm throne, Crown Prince Jordan Wolfe, of the Royal House of Wolfe, set foot upon the western shore of Estara. His arrival was noted by the Stonehelm squire, Lady Freya, who apprised him of the dire circumstance in the land – and from her he learned of the death of his father and the usurpation of power by Lord Damon Kilgarrah. Lord Kilgarrah had laid claim to Stonehelm Keep, holding his captive – the foreign Queen, Danika Stonesoul – and many hostages taken in the storming of the castle.
Upon learning of the state of Stonehelm, Jordan dispatched Freya to gather what friends and allies she might to assemble at the Elven camp; and then sat alone for some time to formulate a plan. As the sun fell in the Western sky, some hours later, Lady Freya returned to convey the Prince to the assemblage…while, at the Keep, Damon Kilgarrah was alerted to an ominous presence in Estara by ravens and other spies about the land.
At six of the clock, the Prince stood before the assembled forces of Estara – already depleted by the battles of these two days. He looked out upon elf-warriors, dragons, and garou; the knights’ guard of Stonehelm, Rangers of the northern wood and hooved creatures of the forests all about Estara. More, he looked upon both enemies (the dark forces and merchant armies of orcs and goblins from Lotharian, led by his distant cousin, Duchess Calypso Amaranth) and partners of convenience (the Crimson Daggers who squatted in the Valley of the Damned). As he began to speak, he heard in the distance the sounds of the continuing clash – as the Kilgarrah dragons fought to clear the path before the keep, and Estaran archers and mages did what they might to assault the stronghold.
The Prince cleared his throat and spoke, his voice ringing out across the glade. “Lady Freya has asked you to come here, at my request. I have learned of my father’s death, and of Lord Damon Kilgarrah’s occupation of the Stonehelm Keep. What he threatens, is a threat to all of Estara…all of you and your peoples. Lady Calypso will echo this thought, I think. The moment is dire, and it will take all the strength we have to pull him down.”
Just as he finished addressing them, Lady Dima stumbled into the camp, having escaped the keep through a little known, hidden passage. “Highness, I am the First Maiden, promoted since you last left Stonehelm. Damon Kilgarrah has come seeking the stones and information on how to use them to bring all of the realm under his rule. He has with him a woman I do not recognize nor do I know why he has her hostage but she seems important to him. I know a secret way into the castle, which is how I came to be here, but there isn’t much time. They may find I am gone and you will lose the advantage of surprise.”
Hastened to action by this news, the Prince proposed a bold plan. The dragons loyal to Estara would assault the keep from the air, drawing off or neutralizing their distant kin in service to Kilgarrah. The forces of Lotharian would lead the main group of forces in direct assault of the keep, seeking to breach the main gate. And the Prince, escorted by Lady Clover and the Crimson Daggers would follow the Stonemaiden through the hidden passages to take the occupying forces from behind.
The Duchess of Lotharian confirmed the plan. “We will lead the charge,” she said as she drew the sword of darkness from its scabbard, black flames licking along the length of it. She nodded to the Lotharians and set off at once to assault the main gate. Already, the mages Fenn MacMoragh and Lady Raven shot balls of fire at Lord Kilgarrah in the parapets while leading a much depleted force of knights, elves, and other warriors along with General Zaile Lunaedge of the Stonehelm Knights. Orc arrows and dragon fire rained down on them; waves of ravens bothered them from the skies as well…as the carnage grew. As the situation seemed to turn from bad to worse for the Estarans in the vanguard, Lady Calypso arrived, leading the Lotharians and other forces through the hailstorm of arrows to meet the invading forces at the gate, sword blazing in her one hand, black fire in the other. With her came her outsized warrior – mighty Ragnar, who bellowed out a war cry as he swung the mighty hammer from his back and charged into the battle. Beside him, Lady Grey notched fresh arrows and drew with purpose, aiming for the eyes of the attacking orcs.
The smaller party, guided by Lady Dima, soon found and took the hidden passage – entering the keep in the chambers of the Stonemaidens. Lady Clover and her Dagger, led by Ace LeBeau and Slatur Drogma with her in the vanguard, fought their way through the hordes or orc warriors crowing the halls and stairways. “For gold, right, King?” Lady Clover shouted, looking back at the Prince to remind him of the toll that would be demanded for their services, even while she pressed ahead, the blue hue of her curved swords working feverishly, aiming at the vital arteries of the guards and leaving them where they lay. The Prince, hearing the shrieks and cries of battle at the front gate, urged them on: “Quickly. Their attention is diverted to the gate. Clear the path and let us get to the rogue king!”
As the battle peaked, a loud piercing whistle sounded above the clamor of war. It was a dragon whistle carried by the hostage queen, Danika, the shrill sound of it screaming over the sound of the winds for a moment before the guard yanked it from her mouth and clamped a hand over her face while holding his knife to her throat. For a moment, it seemed to freeze the attacker, but the violence soon raged forth in even greater fury as all the attackers pushed toward the sound of the dragon scale. The merchant goblin warriors of Lotharian fell in droves as the dragons of Kilgarrah decimated their ranks; but even so Lady Calypso rose above the fray – screaming curses and dark incantations while wielding her weapons to bring down the attacking dragons. “Tarosvannus a-henys, defendya an byw!” she howled, and the circle around her erupted in hellfire, spewing out a score of shadowy wraith creatures- twisted and torturous and screaming like the shades of Hell- that flew after the dragons and tore into them with claws and teeth and blades made of spirit. Her forces fought with bow and steel, targeting the soft underbellies of the fierce wyrms and slowly moved up to breach the gate. General Zaile and the Aran of the Elves hacked their way through orc throngs to gain the stairs, and the attacking force pushed on.
A cry was heard from the parapet: “GEHENNA!” as a red dragon appeared in response to Danika’s whistle, and, amidst the tumult of the battle, dove in and neatly snatched Danika from her captors and spirited the foreign queen away – though not before she suffered a wound to her throat from one the blade of a Kilgarran guard. As the wyrm took flight, bearing her to safety, the Daggers fought their way to the top of the tower and burst through the door to the parapet. The fighting was thick, as the Daggers and the elite guard of Damon Kilgarrah fought to the death. Prince Jordan fixed his eyes on Kilgarrah and fought his way forward until he stood before the pale-faced Lord. He raised his sword as the rest of his entourage moved in to surround the now undefended usurper; with the point of his blade aimed at the rebel’s neck, he proclaimed: “You are done, kingslayer. Lay down your arms and end this mad carnage, or I will see your black heart adorn the point of this sword. The choice is yours.”
At much the same time, the great dragon defending the front gate fell to the relentless assault – its head lopped off in a final battle with General Zaile. The attacking force at last held the main gate and made entry to the keep. The last of the invaders fell to the blade or surrendered, and the peoples of Estara pushed into the Stonehelm stronghold in great numbers.
At just that point, Fate played its final cards. In a riot of events, the Kilgarran lord leapt into the saddle of the last remaining dragon in his force, declaring: “You always were a fool, Jordan Wolfe. Your father’s son…”. As the dragon started its ascent, Jordan Wolfe threw himself forward, grasping the cloak of the kingslayer and twisting to pull him down. At the same time, Lady Clover leapt atop the beast and plunged a dagger into Kilgarrah’s thigh while disarming him of sword and dagger in the same motion. The great lizard drove upward and away, the battle on her back still engaged, while the Stonehelm Prince tumbled to the stone of the parapet with the cloak of Damon Kilgarrah and his sword belt, on which hung a bulky leather pouch. As he struck the flagstones, the heavy clunk as the bag struck stone confirmed to the heir its contents.
With eerie swiftness, a silence fell upon the keep, broken only by the moans of the wounded and dying, and the occasional sound of steel on flesh as the last defenders surrendered the only way they could – with their lives. As the confusion cleared, Prince Jordan discovered that Lady Dima, the First Maiden, revealed the discovery of the traitor who allowed the Kilgarran forces to take the keep – a Stonemaiden named Esther Howard. “A Traitor! She let Damon in. She had keys, and here she is unharmed and trying to flee!” The traitor was taken to the dungeon to be held for royal judgment and punishment.
The Duchess and the remainder of the Lotharians, General Zaile and the leaders of the attacking force arrived atop the tower, their numbers quite reduced; few remained free of major wounds or insult. Jordan secured the leather pouch, as surreptitiously as possible, little wanting his dear cousin or any other to ascertain its contents. The exchange between the Duchess of Lotharian, and her cousin, the heir of Stonehelm, showed that while alliances against a common evil might be fought by necessity, the ledger between them must still be balanced. The Duchess declared: “We will settle accounts soon, regardless of how wretched you think I’d be without you, but not today- you have your hands full here and I have many of my own wounded to tend to. I shall leave you now, to your Kingcraft, only with the promise that we shall be meeting again very soon.”
As the Lotharians turned to leave the ruined halls of Stonehelm keep, amidst this bitter exchange, the heir declared: “I am truly grieved, my dear dark queen, to hear of your losses. The sole consolation I can offer is that, under Damon, you’d have fared far worse…and certainly more than the burning of wooden toys. We will settle accounts, cousin, if that is your purpose here.”
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