The explosion had transformed the gate of the Fortress of Altimaer into a ruinous heap, leaving a giant dust cloud in its mist. This gave General Brannstrom's troupe troupe cover as they entered through the outer wall and away from flying arrows.
The Alvajari walked their steeds carefully through the ruble with swords held high. The thick cloud had left them unable to see anything beyond their horse's nose. Fortunately, their hypnotic state had given them a heightened state of awareness and the ability to maneuver blindly using their sense of hearing.
As for Ballian, he meandered silently through the dust plume with distant eyes. His shaggy hair and thick bear-fur cloak was covered in soot allowing him to blend into his surrounding. There, he waded through the darkness as he listened to growing sound of Imagians fast approaching.
The Imagian army was caught off guard by the explosion and it took some time for them to mount an offensive without their leader. Once enough of them had amassed in front of the Mess Hall they decidely led a united front into the unknown. But if was not that the Imagian's raging voices that gave away their positions it was definately their shimmering armor.
The Alvajari dismounted their steeds in their hooded cloaks and unsheathed their swords. They spread out across the ruble and took up their positions. While hiding in the dense smog they waited until the Imagian metal reflected nearby smoldering flames. In that very moment they stepped out into the open and cut down the unsuspecting soldiers. They continued maneuvering through the oncoming crowd and striking them at will, using their evelated hypnotic abilities.
Ballian protected their flank while remaining on his steed, killing any Imagians that made it through the initial guantlet. His long sword easily decapitated anyone found running past him and striking those in the heart that dared attack him. He continued forth in his onslaught until he he discovered a particular disturbance in his mind.
The assassin shifted around upon his steed and examined his flank with his blank, emotionless stare. He came to the immediate realization that the dark lord he had been sworn to protect had mysteriously dissappeared. Again, he shifted around in his saddle looking to identify Brannstrom's whereabouts. Without the dark lord to command his actions within his hypnotic state he was not sure whether he should continue fighting or go look for him. It was then that Scars' leaped from the wall above and tackled Ballian from his horse!
Miracously, Ballian had survived! The explosion had shot him over and onto the ramparts south of the gate. And just as large stones came hailing down from the sky an unexplained phenomenon occurred. An angelic being appeared and with her swaddling robes she shielded him from sudden death!
In a fleeting moment she was gone, and while standing at the cliff's edge, he watched the the Alvarjari passing through the opening in the wall, and when the timing was right he leaped at his advesary. Fortunately, Ballian cushioned Scars' fall and the impact helped toss him safely into the darkness.
Ballian rose to his commanding height, shrugged his shoulders, and peared into haze. He gripped his long sword with both hands as he cautiously stepped forward. He then made several circular swings to combat two Imagians that appeared directly ahead of him. But just as he went to dispatch them Scars' appeared from behind and slashed Ballian across the back. The assassin was quick to parry but Scars' had again dissapeared from sight.
From the corner of his eye Ballian caught Scars' charging at him. The assassin dropped down into a defensive stance and stabbed his sword right through the abdomen! Upon further study he realized the soldier was already dead. But before he could remove his sword Scars' shoved the dead man into Ballian causing him to falter backwards and lose hold of his sword.
The assassin stumbled on several loose stones giving Scars' the opportunity to tackle him to the ground once more. The Imagian Commander then mounted Ballian across the torso, grabbed him by his chain mail and head-butted him in the head. He then raised his fist high above his battered, bronze chest plate, and gave Ballian several hefty punches.
Scars' winding up his fist and gave Ballian one last parting shot until he found it stopped by the assassin's impressive grip. Ballian then grabbed Scars' by his chest plate and yanked him into his own powerful headbutt. The assassin struck Scars' directly against his bludgeoned nose and the pain was enough for Scars' to release him.
Ballian shoved Scars' off of him with his legs and somersaulted away. He swiftly rebounded after recovering his his sword but could not locate Scars' amiss the dust. He combed the surrounding area and overturned anything that may have provided cover to adversary. However, his attention was quickly diverted when we was alerted to the Imagians sounding the horn to retreat.
The assassin decidedly put the fight behind him, joined his Alvajari on the front lines, and dispatched those that stayed behind to fight. Once the entrance was secured they marched out of the smoke plume and into the Fortress of Altimaer.
While scanning the perimeter Ballian discovered the Imagians were retreating up the main road and towards the bell tower. Upon his command, the Avajari marched in long cloaks past the columned buildings before giving pause outside the barracks. The barracks had been converted into a hospital to treat the wounded but when they realized it was of no threat they continued their march past the armory until they entered within the cobblestone plaza.
The square was surrounded by a facade of gutted buildings, entrapping the Imagians that stood in formation in front of the Temple of Altimaer. But this time the rag-tag army of misfits were no longer leaderless. Standing front and center was Liviu of Roznovia who was joined alongside by a counsel of middle-age monks in wool cassocks.
The Roznovia stepped forth with his long wet locks coursing his bearded face. The sleeves of his tunic stuck tightly to his flexing biceps as his hands clutched tightly to his sheathed short swords. He had arose out of the darkness with an unsuspecting ally of monks that had pulled him away to pledge their allegiance. Now with them on his side he patiently waited to confront Ballian in the courtyard while the sound of thunder echoed off the surrounding structures.
When the Avajari were within equitable distance to the Imagians they drew to a halt, and then Ballian and Liviu continued onward until they came face-to-face near to the covered well. For a few moments Liviu examined Ballian's distant eyes for any signs of conscious life trapped behind the veil of Brannstrom's hypnotic trance. This was his only chance to break through the assassin's disheveled state to help save him.
Gently, Liviu acknowledged his friend without movement, hoping not to trigger him, "Ballian it is me? Liviu--Your friend. If you can hear me deep within I want you to know that I am here to help save you from General Brannstrom."
For the first time Ballian spoke from his hypnotic state, but it was as if it were scripted by dark lord, "Hand over the Ancient Tome now and avoid complete annihilation."
Liviu ignored his threat, instead focusing his energies on trying to awake him from transient state. "You have freed yourself from his spell once before, and I am confident that it can be done once again."
"This is your last chance."
"To save you from your mental chains--then yes!"
Hidden beneath his collared tunic was a secret device he had kept concealed. He had traded for it a while back in the Mess Hall with the intention of using it for this very purpose. But just as he motioned for it he was back slapped! Ballian then grabbed him by his mane, jabbed him several times in the gut, and then kicked him to ground with his boot. The assassin unsheathed his sword and proceeded to go in for the kill until he was bumrushed.
The impact of Scars' mysterious reappearance had sent Ballian tumbling to the ground. He repeatedly hammered away at Ballian's blade with his brooding, long sword, until his assassination attempt was thwarted by the Alvajari that rushed to his defense.
Scar's immediately dropped back to parry, but the Alvajari had him outnumbered. They freely banged their swords across his battered, bronze breast plate until his legs gave out upon a shocking blow against his spine. The Alvajari then stepped aside to allow Ballian have his way with him.
Ballian scooped up his sword and staggered over to Scars. He yanked him upwards into a kneeling position and placed his sword against his throat. The assassin was just about to slit Scars' artery when he felt a silent frequency piercing his unconscious state with such verocity that Ballian dropped his sword to grip his bleeding ears.
Ballian and the Alvajari were left in paralyzing agony as Liviu approached while blowing upon his metal, dog whistle, he had bartered for. He had always wondered why Ballian had kept such a trinket around his neck all these years until it was taken away by Brannstrom upon his enslavement. Maybe he wore it for such an occassion that he needed to play it to prevent any attempt to take over his mind. And if so, what was the tune he played to awake him from unconsciousness? Unfortunately, Ballian never explained it to him. But Ballian did reveal another way for him to break free from Brannstrom's control and it was only few steps away from him.
With utter remorse he watch as Scars' grabbed Ballian by his thick fur cloak and walk him over to the covered well. He then flipped him around and suckered punch with such might that the assassin fell limp. The Imagian Commander grabbed him by the legs and flipped him over the stone ledge. There, he watched with relief as Ballian's body disappeared into the dark abyss, plunging into water way below.
Scars' wasted no time sulking in his exhaustive victory over a man he believed to be working for the crown. Instead, he grabbed his sword and marched across the courtyard to dispatch the Alvajari. The elite group of assassins were scattered about and clasping helplessly to their ears. However, as soon as Scars' approached them, they mechanically stood upright and sliced their necks with their very own daggers!
Scars' and Liviu had finally reunited but before they could make their salutations they were left
thunderstuck by explosion of lightning that negated all light, wind and torrential rainfall. The fortress had fallen into absolute silence, forcing the Imagians to draw their attention to an intense rumbling that was making its way to the main courtyard.
The Imagians had found themselves mercilessly trapped with no way of escaping through the ruble that lay behind the skeletal stone facades of the surrounding buildings. They had no other choice but stand up and fight this unholy evil. But what had Liviu on edge was whether their unwavering faith would save them from total annihilation as his dear friend, Ballian had forewarned?