Matharyn was sleeping. Even in these war-torn times, the city of light was truly a bastion of hope. The king was marching north, and victory against the Fire-axe seemed certain. The people of Talingarde had faith that their king would put an end to these times of war and pestilence, and so they went to sleep dreaming of a better tomorrow…
But the nightmare had only just begun.
On the moonless night at the stroke of midnight, black wings covered the sky. Chargammon the black flew out of the darkness and brought nothing, but death. The great dragon descended on the Adarium, bathing men and stone in acid. The brave men of Talingarde assembled to defend their princess from the beast, the brave men of Talingarde assembled to die. Chargammon Filled the halls of the Adarium with acid and screams. He flew to the top and ripped the ceiling off the building like it was made of paper. There at last he found what he was looking for, but one foolish paladin stood defiantly in the way of the dragon and it’s prey. The dragon laughed at the would-be dragonslayer “So you desire to die in battle with a legend?”. “No” Richard Havelyn proclaimed “I intend to slay one”. The Wyrms eyes flashed with anger and he lashed out with a breath of acidic fury. The dragon found himself annoyed to discover the paladin still standing. It became a standing fight, dragon against knight. Sir Richard answered the dragon’s impressive assaults
with powerful blows, smiting the dragon with painful sacred sword strokes. Each blow leaving horrid scars across ancient black scales. Chargammon for his part, inflicting horrid wounds upon the paladin that would kill any lesser man. He lashed at the knight with claw, tooth, tail and wing. Lacerating flesh from bone and soon the dragon stood over the fallen wreck of Sir Richard. But just as before the dragon could deliver the finishing blow, a beautiful young maiden stood in front of the stricken knight. Chargammon sniffed the air, there was something familiar about this girl “Antharia”. the dragon whispered. The princess spoke “Ah, so you’ve met my mother.” Suddenly and without warning the young maiden extended her arms towards the great wyrm, and four powerfull meteor strikes ripped into the dragon. Chargammon jumped backwards, but he was to late. The massive beast fell backwards and plunged into the ground. The light faded from his eyes and the beast was dead.
Meanwhile far away, the army of king Markadian was stationed outside the sacked city of Daveryn. Alas the king was nowhere to be found. The army could not wait for the king and General Vastenus Barca lead them into battle against the forces of the Fire-Axe. He gave a rousing speech to his assembled throng before the battle about how “…in one glorious stroke we will free Daveryn and slay the monster that threatens us all!” His men gallantly raised their swords and saluted their high-born general. General Barca ordered these valiants en masse to attack the northern gate. “They think their flank conquered and pacified. They will never expect we men of the south and west to attack them from the north!”
Thanks to the treacherous infiltration of the city, Northgate was completely undamaged in the fighting as the city was taken. The gate house of Northgate plus its two flanking towers were fully manned by the Fire-Axe’s most veteran troops as the battle began. Every square foot of those ramparts was crammed with hardened killers. Behind the gate waited a host of ogres and trolls kept in line by a mighty frost giant. Again and again, the men of Talingarde charged those gate houses. Valiant knights, hardy yeomanry, and a thousand low-born volunteers here only because they believed in the dream that is Talingarde, charged those walls following the Sacred Banner of St. Theonas that had shielded through the winter chill. And upon those walls they died. Not by the tens nor the hundred, but by their thousands. They hallowed the ground with their sacrifice. Duty officers and lesser soldiers begged General Barca to stop the assault. “No,” he answered, “I can feel the enemy breaking. And once broken here, we shall break them everywhere.” The slaughter continued unabated.
Northgate was Duke Martin’s masterpiece of fortification. The Duke knew that the Fire-Axe was coming for him and so he had dedicated uncountable resources to shoring up this gatehouse over the last winter to be ready for the northern invaders. Its walls were buttressed by stone masons forced to work through winter nights. Its gates framed in iron by smiths heated only by their forge fires. Its armories stocked with tens of thousands of arrows made by every fletcher in the city. Only a single bridge crossed the River Briden, here at its deepest and swiftest. This bridge was named for its architect, Sir Falstaff. The locals named the old stone crossing Fallingsbridge almost as a joke since it was so sturdily built. And upon that bridge, for hours upon one fine spring day, did the armies of Talingarde at the behest of a treacherous lord, give their lives for a king already dead. It was almost shocking how well the men of Talingarde fared in a battle so horrifically stacked against them. They charged the gate house not once but seven times. They managed to push a battering ram up to the gate even under the most intense hail of missile fire imaginable. Even as boiling oil poured upon their ranks like a black waterfall, they broke the outer gate and swarmed into the gatehouse. Past countless murder-holes and arrow slits they pushed. They broke the inner gate and there they met the frost giant king’s personal guard. And only there in the streets of conquered Daveryn did their might at last wane.
Every giant, ogre and troll who barred their passage died that day. The knights of the Alerion led the charge and finally managed to achieve what seemed for a moment a pyrrhic victory. But the survivors of the slaughter were too few. And just as it seemed this might be the most horrific sort of triumph, The Fire-Axe himself took the field leading his cadre of lieutenants and their personal warbands. And with one charge, every hero left alive beneath the Northgate died. The Fire-Axe raised the fallen Standard of St. Theonas that had marched at the armies fore. With his infernal weapon he set it aflame and cried victory loud enough for even hell to hear. Far away upon the field, Vastenus Barca broke a clay seal. His work was done. Tiadora and her furies teleported to his location and slew all that remained of his high command. Tiadora approached General Barca, covered in the blood of his most trusted subordinates, and bowed. “Well done, Lord of the Cainite Knot.” General Barca looked upon the slaughter that surrounded him and shed a single tear. “You promised me a crown! Where is it?” “You shall have your crown.”
The Ninth had finished their final mission for Cardinal Thorn and waited patiently for Tiadora. Just as they were to leave their floating fortress, Tiadora appeared with the nine sisters. She congratulated them on a job well done and invited them to Thorns hidden fortress in the north, the Agathium. Knowing that Thorn was planning on betraying them, the villains refused the summons. Tiadora revealed her true form and warned the knot that further insubordination would end in their doom by the hand of Thorn. The Ninth still refused and battle ensued. The Nessian knot had grown strong since the time Tiadora rescued them from Branderscar, and the devil had no choice but to flee back to Thorn.
Soon Asmodeus would be master of Talingarde, but first Cardinal Thorn had to die.