It had been days since the thunderstorm raged the isle of Cosrin, heralding in the year of 115. On Brent Street, in Moorgate, a large, stern building stood out from the stores and houses, weathered from the storms and seemingly unrepaired for many years. Its massive iron-wrought gates must have originally been painted matte black, yet now they stood battered with only flakes of paint remaining. In stark contrast, the building’s three magnificent towers were all perfectly maintained and amongst the tallest towers in the entire city. Each tower was decorated with extensive murals on the outside walls, as well as spikes and metal plating which all but ensured that none would breach or climb these towers.
In front of the towering gates, a bearded man, dressed in a full suit of armor, was being approached by a boy who looked to be no older than 15. Eyes full of admiration and nervousness, the boy gazed at the gates before turning his attention to the man.
“G-G-General Blueheart?” he squeaked, almost instantly looking down to his feet as he caught Blueheart’s attention.
“What is it boy?” the General replied with a far friendlier voice than the teenager expected.
“My…My mother t-t-told me the thunderstorms were the end of days… I w-w-want to join the clan, to pro-protect her.” Blueheart rested his hand on the boy’s shoulder, the steel of his gauntlet weighing heavy on the young body.
“Don’t ye worry lad”, he reassured warmly, “T’was was bad weather. I admire yer courage but this place is not for the faint hearted, you look like you need some extra years on you. Get a wooden sword and start training, come back in a few years and you can prove yourself. Now go, put your family at ease”
The clearly disappointed teenager dropped his gaze and walked away, the feel of the general’s gauntlet slipping away leaving him more unsettled than before. He shortly disappeared down the street.
Shaking his head as the boy skulks away, Blueheart suddenly heard the all too familiar sound of a galloping horse combined with the rattling of steel and wooden wheels on cobblestones.
“Not again!” Blueheart shouted while attempting to block the way, but it was too late. An armoured horse and chariot appeared barreling around the corner, and, while the gates were still slowly unfolding, the figure atop the chariot made no effort to temper his pace. Maneuvering his vehicle to just narrowly avoid Blueheart, the frightening ogre-like character merely grunted as he took note of the half open gate and proceeded to direct his chariot straight into what opening was available. While the horse barely fit through the crack, the sides of the chariot were less fortunate. Still, the incredibly well trained horse only lost marginal speed as it continued through the meeting hall of the Clan of Fighters, the gates more than a little battered in his wake.
“Hawkus Bonecrusher, this is not tolerable! I WILL make this stop!” fumed Blueheart, shouting at the top of his lungs, “We were meant to be more than this. We were meant to stand as one, not this disrespectful bunch of ragtag misfits!”
His whisper roiled up into an anguished roar, directed toward the central of the three towers. The angered warrior growled at length and kept his eyes on the gates as they close once more.
“Is this the infamous Fighters’ Clan?” a voice unknown to Blueheart asked.
The General turned around to see a man even taller than himself, with short black hair that complimented a suit of iron chainmail.
“It is. Are you another hopeful?” Blueheart responded, sizing the stranger up. “To join us, go to the catacombs underneath this city. Dreadful creatures roam there, one of which we call ‘the Viper Spirit’. Return to me the glowing sword it protects, and you can join our cause”
With nothing but a nod, the man left, and Blueheart barely caught a glimpse of the sword on his belt and the bow on his back.
“In a few years he’ll be just another arrogant Knight or elitist Ranger, if he even makes it that far” Blueheart muttered under his breath, still visibly annoyed by Hawkus’ actions.
Meanwhile, in the southernmost of the three towers, Lady Adelaide could be seen ordering about young men to restore any and all damage that the thunderstorm had left upon the Rangers Tower in particular. Her long, dark hair flowed freely across her back, yet the rest of her body was tightly encased in armor, crafted seemingly from large bones and scales.
“I want the training room restored, and our banner repaired!” she yelled at the men, all young rangers in training or workers employed for the task of cleaning.
“You there! Contact the painters to restore our tower!” she commanded the squire closest to her. All the while, she peered determinedly through the windows. “The Knights haven’t even noticed the damage to their murals yet. I want ours restored before they get a hold of the painters!”
The disdain in her voice was clear, and though she was part of the same Clan, she felt no love or even camaraderie towards the barbarians or knights.
She and many others who started off learning the basics of combat in the courtyard below had decided to focus their training on the mastering of their bow and crossbow skills, as well as molding natural elements to their advantage. Others had mastered the art of fighting with a balanced, one-handed weapon and a shield, or even large and heavy two handed weapons designed to split enemies in half or crush them with a single blow. In time these groups built their own specialized areas to train in these advanced tactics, distancing themselves from both the basic clan and, incidentally, each other.
“Filthy savages” she muttered under her breath as she noticed Hawkus and his chariot hurtling through the courtyard, “And to think we trained together!”
Stepping away from the window, she grabbed her prized bow “Arbiter” from one of the nearby weapon racks and started descending the main stairway in the Rangers tower. Back to business as usual.
As the months went by, little changed within the clan. New recruits joined, amongst whom the tall, dark-haired man was counted, while others faltered and sometimes fell while trying to complete the task that General Blueheart has set them out upon.
Each of the towers kept a close eye on the new recruits, enticing the new blood to join this fold or that when basic training had been completed.
As the darkness fell over Moorgate on one particular night, only two men remained outside to hone their skills, accompanied only by the sentinels on watch duty, up on the walls.
“A well struck blow” the dark haired man commented while watching his fellow recruit practice his sword skills against a wooden target.
“Halren,” he introduced himself, extending his hand.
A grunt was the only reply from the gigantic figure in front of him.
“I take it you are training to become a Barbarian?” Halren asked, glancing at the giant’s blade, a finely crafted bronze sword so large it need be swung with two hands.
Receiving only a nod in return, Halren continued to attempt conversation.
“The Barbarians seem to not care much for me ever since I started to practice with a bow and arrow.”
The lumbering giant smirked slightly, “It makes you look like a ranger! They say rangers are weak!”
With that he threw his sword on the floor and turned to the bunk area, leaving a silent and thoughtful Halren as the last man in the courtyard.
Dozens of months passed by until one night, when an unnaturally loud thunder broke out over the city of Moorgate. The screams of citizens soon followed.
“Demons! Demons!” The shouts sent alarm through the streets even as daemonic beasts began to appear across the city. Within minutes, the fighters themselves were under siege, and formations of mounted knights and hordes of barbarians streamed out of the gates to defend their towers and their lives.
Up in the rangers’ tower the archers had already taken position and were firing at those flying creatures that chanced too close to their tower, simultaneously raining arrows on the streets below.
The barbarians were cleaving all that stood before asunder, holding a line on the south end of Brent Street while the knights tried to break the enemy lines directly north of the main gates. Despite the sheer strength and skill of the knights, the winged demons made it impossible for them to advance. They constantly swooped in from above and clawed the heads and shoulders of the knights as they battled, harrying them and keeping their defenses down. With what seemed like an endless stream of reinforcements, the demons soon began to force the knights and their barbaric counterparts into retreat, back toward the main castle.
Up in the rangers’ tower, Halren, an accomplished ranger by now, noticed that the majority of the winged demons had started to focus on the knights and barbarians below.
“Make haste, we must aid them!” he cried out while moving from his fortified position to the stairs. While a few rangers followed him, the majority stayed at their posts. Lady Adelaide, far higher in ranking than the relative newcomer Halren, had rebuffed him at once.
“No! Stand your ground; protect our tower at all costs. They are not your concern!”
Ignoring these words, Halren and several others rushed to the battlements at the main gate where they immediately provided cover fire for the now retreating knights.
“Stay out of this! This is not your battle!” shouted Sir Vladimir Trikosec, who swiftly dispatched two beasts as they charged upon him. Just as quickly, he turned back to Halren to continue shouting when he was blindsided by one of the flying creatures. The beast seemed set to claw his eyes out until Halren sunk two arrows into its skull, dropping it lifelessly to the floor. Sir Vladimir grunted, too proud for thanks, but relented in his anger with the rangers and rushed back into the fray.
Meanwhile, the barbarian forces were under siege by even larger demons, which began to make their way into the streets, some with claws the size of war hammers.
“Fall back!” bellowed one of the barbarians, a man wearing little more than panther fur to protect him. As barbarian line fell back further and further towards the main building, they ultimately came into adjacency with the group of knights defending the main gate.
“Get outta our way!” the massive barbarian thundered, “We will hold this gate!”
Several barbarians and knights started to argue as both groups felt it was their right to defend the last front. As a result, several of the beasts managed to scale their way from the walls onto the battlements, where the small group of rangers led by Halren was attempting to keep the skies clear of enemies.
Sir Vladimir glanced up at the battlements to the rangers who had earlier saved his life, and raised his lance, shouting, “Hawkus! This is wasting lives! You hold the line, the knights will break through!” He turned to his own men.
“You four! Up to the battlements!”
As the four knights made their way up the battlements to bolster the rangers’ position, Hawkus and his barbarians ferociously defended the gate, aided by cover fire from Halren and his men, while Sir Vladimir moved out in formation to drive the larger beasts back. With the knights defending the battlements, the rangers had free reign to clear the skies, allowing Halren to focus on helping the knights advance and clear the way into the city.
“Survivors! Some are wounded!” Sir Vladimir yelled as his small group of knights reached the crossroads at Brent Street and Broadside Walk.
“Form a circle around the wounded and fall back!” he continued to shout orders, which his men obediently carried out.
Soon, however, Halren and several others began to notice the retreating men and provided cover fire until, at last, all the survivors they found were moved into the clan hall.
“Guard the skies. We are spread thin but we must hold.” Halren told a young ranger by his side as he moved down the battlements and into the main hall.
“Report the situation, who have we found and how is their condition?” Halren asked as soon as he entered the hall and saw Sir Vladimir.
“The mages, some are wounded. Yet some mages and scribes are relatively unscathed,” he replied, glancing at the main hall where two shamans had already set up a triage to mend the wounded.
“Rally all those who are capable of fighting and send them up to the battlements!” Halren ordered, more sure of himself now, “And send all able bodies who cannot fight to carry supplies. We need more arrows up on the walls, and the men and women need water if we are to fight much longer.”
Vladimir nodded and set forth to organizing the mages. But one stepped toward Halren, identifying himself as Eloras.
“Are you the one in charge?” he inquired.
Halren nodded slightly, “It would seem so for now. Speak your words quickly, for I must return to the defenses.”
“This… Invasion. The mages have heard prophecies about it”, Eloras told Halren. “One of ours knows how to end it. We possess a scroll that must be brought to Khaji of the Monks. He might be able to decipher it. There is a rogue with us; he can take the scroll to him without getting seen.”
“The scroll, it will end all of this?” Halren asked incredulously, glancing between Eloras and the rogue who just then appeared before them.
“From what I have heard, we do not know,” the rogue answered, “but he believes it is our best hope.”
“Then make haste, we will hold for another two hours, waiting for your return. If we hear nothing, we move out to battle this ourselves”. With that, the rogue vanished.
Sir Vladimir was leading several mages towards Halren.
“They will help our defense” he announced, before leaving once more to ensure the unscathed scribes were still helping with supplies.
“You three! Support the northern battlements!” Halren began delegating the work, turning to an idle pair of scared seeming warriors, “You two will strengthen the southwest!”
“The rest of you report to the main gate” As the mages made their way to their new positions, Halren returned to his defensive position on the battlements.
Over an hour passed after the departure of the rogue, Sam, and the fighters and mages were still defending bravely. As word reached Halren that Sam had returned with Khaji, he left a warrior named Roachmill in charge of the wall’s defense and made his way into the main hall.
“Nothing has changed, but I see you brought a guest.” Halren remarked impatiently as he greeted Sam, glancing at the monk who had returned with him.
“Meet Khaji.” Sam gestured at the monk, who nodded and smiled, “He has made the translations, we must go to the portal that is bringing these demons into the world. I know the way. It is deep within the ruins of the old fortress”.
“Lothaine will be joining you; he is the one that found this scroll.” Eloras chimed in, pointing at the front gate. “He is fighting outside. Let him know when you will depart”.
“Vladimir! Hawkus!” Halren thundered, “Find your two best men, we’re moving out.”
Heading up to the battlements himself, he took two of the best rangers, having Eloras and one of the other mages replace them to keep the defense safe.
The group of fighters: Sam, Khaji and Lothaine moved out towards the fortress, slowly advancing with the barbarians at the front and knights guarding the rear. As they neared the crossing of Brent Street and Autumn Walk, Halren spotted a cluster of large flaming demons marching in their direction.
“Roachmill, on the north roofs! Odon! Vez! Take point. Vladimir! Keep your eyes out for the flanks!” He issued his commands like a man possessed, and like a finely tuned unit, they pushed forward, allowing the barbarians to establish the ground the cleared.
Continuing their way to the source, the group of adventurers quickly dispatched the demons in their way and found the entrance of the old fortress. An endless source of demons charged out of the towering building, its massive gates lit up by the flaming beasts marching through.
“There is another way, follow quickly” Sam utters, swiftly making his way through a small alley and a trap door. The rest follow his path, ending up in a dark tunnel underneath the city. Inching their way forward through the tight corridors, a dim light marks the end of the passageway. The barbarians came charging out of the tunnel, running to meet the demons until such time as the rest of the group could join them in battle.
“Over there,” shouted Khaji, the monk pointing at a pitch black rift. Eviscerating a demon with his katana, he lead the group towards the dark portal.
In the middle of a large domed room, the portal supplied a constant stream of demonic beasts finding their way into the city. As the adventurers entered the area, they caught the demons’ attention, causing them to abandon their previous destination and ferociously charge the barbarians at the front.
“Into the corner! Guard the monk at all cost!” Halren shouted, and the knights and barbarians instantly moved into a formation to guard the sides, not allowing any demons to get past them.
Hawkus let out a deafening roar as he pulled a demon’s claw out of its arm. Lothaine, in his full mithril armour, decapitated the beast in one fell swoop while instantaneously healing Hawkus’ wound. Even the evasive rogue Sam aided in protecting Khaji, revealing his hidden wrist blades by puncturing the throats of any that got close to Halren and Roachmill. He seemed to blend in and out of the shadows within the poorly lit room.
Khaji, in all of this turmoil, unfolded the scroll and began chanting a mysterious hymn. Streams of white glowing light erupted as the scroll evaporated, lighting up the room and forming the image of a large ethereal dragon. As the others continued to battle the demons, Khaji began to float midair, seemingly channeling his energy into the translucent manifestation.
The dragon continued to grow in size until it filled up half the room and started wrapping its body around the rift. As the dragon fully enveloped the dark portal, the mysterious entity exploded, creating a massive shockwave of blinding light reaching until the city walls, vaporizing all demons in its path.
An eerie silence followed as the skies cleared, and the adventurers were stunned by the mystical event happening before their eyes. It lasted for mere seconds before a dark voice could be heard from the middle of the room.
“You have achieved nothing. When I return, no magic can save you”.
While the demonic threat had been repelled, the city of Moorgate laid in ruins. The majestic tower of the Knights had all its protective plating torn off and its battlements reduced to ruins. Many knights had fallen to protect what was left as the demons had broken through the walls of the tower, attempting to gain entrance. Even though the demons were unsuccessful, it had taken the might and lives of many knights to keep their tower from completely falling. The Barbarians’ tower had taken the most structural damage, being left with gaping holes all the way through the tower caused by the flying creatures crashing into the tower. The armory and training rooms were visible for all to see, as well as the casualties inflicted by the demonic attacks.
Even the Rangers’ tower had taken serious damage, despite Lady Adelaide’s best efforts to have her rangers protect their tower before all else. Most of the tower went up in flames, fueled by the many bows and arrows within both the rangers’ armory and training facilities. The main structure of the Fighters had survived best and while the courtyard was littered with wounded, the mages had done their utmost to preserve the lives of the barbarians, knights and rangers who had come together to defend the main gates.
In the days after the great demonic invasion, small things began to change within the walls of the Clan of Fighters. A more confident Halren arose to take charge of the reconstructions, ensuring that not only the towers were repaired, but that the squires and workmen restored the building, as a whole, to its former glory. While Lady Adelaide still barely left the rangers’ tower, at least some rangers, knights and barbarians had started to respect each other’s skill and perseverance during the battles. A tavern opened up within the main construct of the clan where Halren, Sir Vladimir and Hawkus organized a feast for all towers.
As the feast was starting Blueheart grabbed Halren by the shoulder and handed him an ale filled mug.
“I think ye deserved this!” he cried out, chuckling as he went, “I remember you came in only a few years ago, lad. Who would have known you could be the one to save this clan?”
“I didn’t save anything,” Halren replied, “we stood united, that is how we survived.”
“No, dear lad,” Blueheart countered, “I wasn’t talking about the battle. I was talking about the clan. Adelaide would have let them all die while sitting safe in her tower. Hawkus and Vladimir would have torn each other to shreds before succumbing to these demons. You made a bold first move, now finish it by truly uniting us as a guild instead of keeping us as three separate factions.”
Blueheart gave Halren a pat on the back before raising his own mug and bellowing forth, “To the Fighters’ Clan!” The attending crowd roared their assent.
Halren sat down at one of the large rectangular tables occupied by mostly fur-clad barbarians telling tales of battle.
“An’ they just kept comin’,” one man was boast, “me hammer was covered in brain’n’slime, one blow crushed three demons an I stomped a fourth to de ground! Dan a huge creature stormed at us, I took out ‘is knee with me hammer an when he fell to the ground, I ripped off a claw an stabbed his eyes out!”
The table erupted with huge roars and ale was spilled, the barbarian telling the tale with a triumphant look on his face.
“I believe it was Sir Odon at your side, shielding you from the creature’s attacks, was it not?”, Halren chimed in as the roaring quieted down.”
“Hrmp,” the barbarian grunted, “He deflected de demon’s strikes while I slaughtered it”.
Nodding, Halren got up.
“Perhaps you should add that part when telling this tale, an epic battle entails more than just oneself.”
Without waiting for a reply he made his way towards the bar while another barbarian started up with boasts about his conquests.
“Knights! Barbarians! Rangers! Even young recruits…” Halren shouted over the boisterous crowd, climbing on top of the bar. The tavern quieted down for just a moment, only for even louder howls to emerge as their respective tower names were shouted out.
“We have fought bravely, the townsmen are heralding our defense of the city as a miracle, and tales of our victories will be told for many years!” He belted the words out with strength and verve, inciting the crowd to become even louder.
“Some of our brothers want to keep this glory within their towers. They are not here, and I am shameful for all the rangers who chose to celebrate this event within their brick prison. For too long we have identified ourselves as Rangers, Knights or Barbarians. The new blood is fed hatred, to despise those who do not follow their line of training!”
The room quieted down as Halren’s voice grew darker and more serious.
“I wear the cloak of Rangers, but am a fighter first and foremost. Spread this word to your towers: From this day on I will take upon me what none have cared for in years. This day is when I ask for all the knights and barbarians to acknowledge me and all other rangers as their brothers. I hereby take reign of what should be a guild, not a collection of three towers. Join me, and we will become the Fighters’ Guild!”
The discordant crowd now grew louder and small scuffles broke out across the room until one man rose, slamming his fist on his chest.
“I, Sir Odon”, the man shouted in a clear voice, “am proud to call you my brother. Just as I will call any who identify themselves as a fighter my brother”
“I too will fight alongside you as family!” exclaimed Vez, raising his fist in the air.
Odon and Vez made their way towards Halren through the crowd, who himself had stepped down from the bar and was heading towards the exit flanked by Blueheart, Hawkus, Vladimir, Vez and Odon. Some men and women were quick to leave the gathering, in order to return to their tower, while others followed in Odon’s footsteps by proclaiming their allegiance to the Fighters guild.
“Only a minority stays.” Blueheart commented as Halren proceeded to move from the tavern to the courtyard.
“The towers will see this as a rebellion,” he continued, causing Halren to nod.
“They might”, he replied, “There is much to be done. Together we must stand vigilant. Return to your towers and seek those who will join our cause.”
As the others walked to their respective towers, Halren and Blueheart made their way into the guild to prepare for what is to come.
“Perhaps”, Halren said as they left the courtyard, “in order to truly save, we must first destroy. I will tear those towers down in the name of unity if I must!”