brown wooden bench on sidewalk during night time

Session 10: Battle for the Hollow

Chapter V: Jezran’s Gambit

I don’t think the battle is going well…

Jezran watched countless people flood through the gates of the estate, seeking shelter from the oncoming force. Many were wounded, some fatally so.

Many were from the Wall, which Jezran knew meant the worst.

They’ll be here soon.

The militia stood guard at the gates, ushering in the battered fisherman and the garrisons from the Wall.

How many have died this day? How many more will before the day is done?

His thoughts were interrupted as he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned, and his eyes met Merus’.

Before Jezran could say anything, Merus spoke, “You alright?”

“I…uh…I—I guess,” he said, cheeks warming.

“I see…” Merus said.

Silence followed, until Merus said casually, “I don’t believe I ever told you this, but I am not from here.”

“O—oh really?” Jezran asked, confused by this sudden admission.

Merus nodded. “Yes, I came here as a child with my father. We were a failed noble house. Your Master gave us refuge when I was young. I never learned all the details, but supposedly this was the best he could do for us.”

The old Governor paused, watching the racing rabble below. His eyes brimmed with concern, but softly he continued, “Hated this whole place back then. So far removed from our home in the West. Such a cold, dark place. So much struggle just to survive.”

He then turned back to the wizard, “Yet in that struggle, we come to realize how meaningful what little we have means, both to us and others.”

Jezran nodded in understanding. “And what if we fear it might disappear in an instant?”

Merus sighed, looking down as the retreating numbers thinned, “We take the time we have left to appreciate it, my friend.”

“You’re right,” Jezran said, taking a deep breath, releasing the negativity he had been holding for hours. A small smile then touched his lips, “Speaking of, how’s Merice? Last I heard from you, she was due to have the baby any day now.”

“Health wise, good, but after today…as well as you can expect. Her husband was sadly…this morning…” Merus trailed off.

Heat rushed to Jezran’s cheeks as his face turned crimson, “Oh…I’m sorry to hear that,”

“As was I, Artem was a good man,” Merus said softly, “We will soon see how many more might share his fate.”

The two shared an awkward silence as the mood darkened between them.

“We’re all gonna die today, aren’t we?” Jezran asked, but his tone carried a finality.

Merus sighed, “Perhaps, perhaps not. We won’t know how this plays out until the bitter end.”

“Perhaps,” Jezran said, looking off into the horizon, “But I’m not certain how else this can end.”

“Jezran…” Merus said, grasping his shoulder, “I won’t deny the possibility we all die here. I can even accept my own death, fighting to protect my people, my daughter, and my future grandchild, but you…you have to live, Jezran.”

Jezran turned, raising an eyebrow, “Why?”

“I don’t think this will be the end, my friend. Despite the odds, I see a future for our people, but I know this could happen again. So…you’ll need to find out what’s happening and end it. Make this land a safer place for our people.  For everyone.”

Jezran grasped his hand, and nodded, “I will do what I can, I promise you.”

A small smile touched Merus’ lips, “Good. Then let us fight on without regret.”

As he spoke the sky began to darken above them.

Yet it was not from dusk.

Two green lights appeared as countless tendrils reached down toward the city below.

“By the…” Jezran swallowed sharply, staring at the horror above, “It’s like the end of the world.”

“Then let us face it head on,” Merus said quietly, grabbing Jezran by the arm, “Come, it is time we begin to do our part.”

Jezran quickly ran to the center of the roof, towards the arcane circle he drew.

How on earth did I get here? Jezran thought as he made a final check of the runes on the ground around him. I was just the poor son of a carpenter, useless save my intellect. Now I’m here, an Acolyte about to face a monster from legend to save the only people who’ve ever treated me well outside the College.

His grip on the focus crystal tightened, enough that he could feel a sharp edge cut into his flesh, It doesn’t matter. I will do what I can for these people. Even if it’s not enough, I will do what I can. And then…maybe one day I can make sure this never happens again.

From his vantage, he could see the approaching horde of monsters through the streets and the Umbralivants flying towards them.

With a wave of his hand, he reached out with his magic and touched the wards nearby.

Time to put all these traps to good use.

Energy cackled through his fingertips as his hand touched the circle around him.  Magic from across the Hollow flowed through him along the paths etched into the walls and stones stretching out from the estate to the great Walls beyond.

Activating the Eye of Arcana, he could see the enemy’s approach. The Eye was non-discriminatory between friend and foe, but part of the Militia’s task over the last two days was to set normal traps around the city that would slow down the enemy advance. All retreating groups were led by small contingents of the militia that memorized the routes around them.

This made the task of separating friend and foe far easier, as he needed to only note the groups hit by the traps.

Several traps were activated, releasing a mixture of rotted bait from the docks and alcohol from Ebna’s tavern. The mixture created a disgusting, but highly flammable, sludge.

A pulse of mana through the arcane runes was enough to cause a spark. Infernos lit up the distant city. While the hordes in the city streets burned, Umbralivants and Children floated over the Walls.

Walls, abandoned by the Garrison, were now open to the next phase of the trap.

Unlike the spark, this required a great deal more mana from him. Enough that it left him breathing heavily as lightning shot from the nearby runes, burning the Children and Umbralivant alike. Most retreated quickly at the first sign, but those less reactive took the full brunt of his storm. They burned to a crisp and crashed into the city below.

Jezran could not help a grin spreading across his face as sweat began beading down his brow at the initial success. Lightning and spark runes, both are pretty basic, but when amplified by the arcane energies running beneath the city, they pack quite a punch.

Jezran continued this back and forth combo, burning the streets filled with enemies and shocking their airborne counterparts.

The advance was forced to slow, but it did not stop.

Monsters below climbed over the burned remains of their comrades, the Umbralivants and Children simply overwhelmed with numbers. The lightning brought dozens down, but dozens more continued past.

Each surge of lightning took more and more out of Jezran. Until finally, he collapsed into a puddle of his own sweat, his breathing ragged as his vision blurred.

He was spent, too much mana burned in too little time. Jezran was not a novice, but only someone like his Master could have kept up such an onslaught for more than a few hours.

Even now, in spite of all the dead. In spite of all their planning. All their efforts. The forces arrayed against them seemed unfazed, as those lost were easily replaced mere moments later.

It would not be long before they reached the walls of the estate.

As the sun began to set and the mists slowly began their descent, as if for the final curtain call, Jezran knew one thing.

The end was nigh.

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