Castle Vespida

Ahnya took a deep breath, offered a small prayer in her native tongue to one of the Av'rae peoples' many gods, and nods at Dolich. "Third, yes. Ranyaa and I shall wait for your command, Tahl and Kahn will watch for any climbers." With that, she looks over her shoulder at her friends and barks out an order in their strange dialect, pointing in the direction Dolich had directed them.

They split off from Dolich to take up position along the third battlement, and steeled themselves for the onslaught. Raynaa didn't seem to have any issue loading her crossbow with steel-tipped death, and firing with the others into the horde. Her bolts flew true, and a lot straighter than the arrows, and every one of them found their mark. Most struck into the fleshy midsections of the beasts, and only the ones that hit the softer sections of the beasts' heads and extremities passed through and into the next creature, one of the benefits of such a weapon.

Ahnya's weapon is far different, however. She loads black powder first, then the iron ball, and takes aim. With the next volley, she pulls the trigger and the weapon erupts in a loud bang, sending the iron ball in a surprisingly accurate collision course with her target. Much like the crossbow, the bullet flies straight and true, but due to its size and the force behind it, it cuts through flesh without a problem, and sinks deep into the body behind her target, no matter where she hit. It took perhaps a second or two longer for her to load the weapon again, but it seemed to be worth it. To an inexperienced gunner, it would likely take more than that, but Ahnya was well practiced and trained for such a weapon.

Her breath catches in her throat as she sees them combine and evolve into some sort of flesh monster before her very eyes. "What I would not do for a dwarven firecaster..." she murmurs as she loads her weapon once more. "Ranyaa!" she calls over. "Boltaí ag pléascadh!" The other Av'rae nods to her leader and switches the next bolt out for one that's much thicker and quite a bit heavier. Using the tip of the next archer's flaming arrow, she lights a long string that sticks out of the bolt, loads it, and immediately fires.

The bolt soars out with the next volley and embeds itself deep into writhing flesh, now surrounded by the fire that spread over the beast. Ranyaa begins preparing another such bolt, nodding to herself and counting down until finally she looks away. Inside the beast, the fuse finally reaches the black-powder filled bolt and detonates it, blowing a small, bloody chunk out of the beast. "Coimeád sé suas!" Ahnya calls over. "Dolich will replace them!" Well, he better at least. Ranyaa nods, and begins continues to fire her exploding bolts into the beast.

Ahnya curses more to herself as she fires iron ball after iron ball, each one punching deep into the ever growing mass. "Do you have oil?" she calls across to the nearest commander-looking fellow. "Or catapults? Anything to get the oil onto it?" She had seen castles with large pots set on the walls, and even the D'neirs had tried using flaming glass orbs of oil against her people, but the stories went that they had been sabotaged before firing. There are many theories on that, but none Ahnya felt the need to speak of at that moment.


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The Book of Night GM
The archers lined up on the battlements jumped at the sudden boom of Ahnya's long gun, unfamiliar with seeing such contraptions on the battlefield. However, the monstrosity rising from the masses before their eyes soon took their attention away. Flaming arrows streaked through the air, searing the abomination's flesh as they thudded into its writhing form. The humanoid forms beneath the skin thrashed in pain as the fire burned through the cursed flesh, but the beast itself seemed to pay them little heed. The blast of the exploding bolt left a gory crater in its body, revealing the tormented Twisted within. The figures were intertwined in a tight mass, arms twisting around heads and merging with bodies as they clung to one another. As the horrified defenders watched, dozens of hands pulled the skin around the wound together, sealing the injury shut within moments.

It took a few moments for Dolich to register what Ahnya had asked him, but he managed to tear his gaze away from the beast long enough to lock eyes with his blue-skinned guest. He shook his head, glancing back into the castle for just a moment before meeting her eye once more.

"No," he said. "No oil, not in that kind of quantity. Catapults would be useless anyways, they're far too slow to hit something like that. We have poison, though. Poison enough to kill that beast a hundred times over. Listen now, Ahnya. Listen closely. Your group is allowed up here because I trust you. I trust that you'll not let slip our secrets to anyone on the road. Can you promise me that? Promise me that not a word of what happens here tonight will reach outside these walls?"

Behind them, the buzzing grew louder, a harsh drone that seemed to make the very air vibrate. It was enough to set anyone on edge, but none of the archers seemed to pay it any heed. Their arrows peppered the beast, covering it with little points of fire. However, their efforts were like bee stings to the creature, which reared up and rushed forward towards the castle. A long, pale leg swept across the battlement, slamming archers away like ragdolls and sending braziers and crates of arrows flying. Dolich grabbed Ahnya and shoved her aside, narrowly avoiding being knocked over by a flying corpse as the unfortunate man sailed through the air.

"Use the acid!" he called, seizing a spherical glass flask filled with a colorless fluid from a case on his belt. He flung it at the retreating tendril as it drew back for a second stroke, and the flask shattered against its flesh. A cloud of acrid smoke billowed out from where the liquid splattered, searing away the skin and burning at the multitude of bodies beneath. The limb spasmed and thrashed, the hands from within unable to pull the wound closed. All around him, troops began to follow his lead, hurling caustic concoctions at the creature. Dolich pulled a dark cloth over his mouth and nose, tying it securely behind his head.

"Don't breathe the smoke," he advised, offering Ahnya a handkerchief. 'It's...not pleasant."
Seeing the archers jump at the sound of her weapon made her smirk just the tiniest of bits. Humans usually had the same reaction, one she herself once had when she first travelled through the Dwarven holds many years ago. If they thought the handgun was bad, they should hear the cannons. The thought proved to be a welcome distraction as she reloaded for another shot, but the reality she found herself in quickly returned.

As Dolich begins to speak to her, she fires off another shot, cutting off one or two of his words, unintentionally of course. "Huh?!" She called over as she reloaded, then takes a moment to listen. Ah. More secrets. "I have told you before, Lord Vespida, I do not care about spreading secrets. If you do not want them spoken of, then we will keep them to ourselves! We have bigger things to worry about!"

She let out a startled shout as she feels the wall rumble under her, followed by Dolich pushing her aside. She had only seen the strike coming out of the corner of her eye, but had it not been for her host, she would have ended up down with the arrow-movers below. She stumbles to her feet, but before she can respond, the acid has begun to rain on the creature. It took her but a moment to recognise such a concoction, but only from stories she had been told by her cousin, and not of the Vespidas. Both she and Raynaa pulled a scarf-like vestment from inside their armour and pulled it up over their nose and mouth in response to Dolich's instructions, and it seems quite effective at avoiding the smoke.

Something bothered Ahnya though, that buzzing sound. She thought it was one of the Vespidas' weapons, but nothing seemed to have happened yet. She takes a moment from the action, as she had no acid of her own, to look for the source of such a buzzing.


Just chillin'
The Book of Night GM
The foul stench of dissolving flesh and caustic vapor filled the air, stinging the eyes and prompting all the surviving archers to pull similar cloths over their faces. They seemed no stranger to this style of fighting, using all manner of tricks that other houses would consider barbaric and uncivilized. Bottles of acid flew through the air and smashed into the beast, splattering their agonizing contents across its tormented flesh. Unfortunately, the volley was short-lived. Strong acid was costly to produce, and each archer had been issued only two of the precious vials. When the smoke cleared, the monstrosity still stood tall, although the marks of the barrage were clear on its body. Patches of skin had been burned away all around the body, revealing the tangle of still mostly-human limbs and bodies beneath. The hands and faces that reached out from these wounds showed the marks of the acid as well, the flesh scorched away to the bone in some cases. Dolich surveyed the scene with a cool, calculating eye, making a quick head count of his surviving troops as the buzzing grew ever louder behind them.

"The walls will hold," he repeated, almost more to himself than Ahnya. "The castle will stand. They'll not take our home from us."

The strange buzz would rise to a crescendo as Ahnya glanced back, and she would see a strange figure rising up into the air from the keep. It looked vaguely humanoid in shape, shrouded in a familiar-looking yellow-striped hooded cloak. Four membranous, insectoid wings sprouted from its back, almost invisible as they buzzed back and forth to lift the figure into the air. They hovered for a moment, scanning the situation before rocketing towards the monster, flying directly over Dolich and Ahnya's heads. As it did so, Ahnya would be able to make out the silhouette of a woman's body, clad in the dark leather uniform of the Vespida family. The head, however, was anything but human. It was unmistakably that of a gigantic wasp, triangular and predatory with its huge, compound eyes. The wasp-woman flashed past the monstrosity at blinding speed, skimming over its body and deftly avoiding its sweeping tendrils. A sharp-eyed observer would see the flicker of a blade for just the briefest moment, before a long slice opened up in the beast's back along the wasp's flight path. Hands grasped out from within, pulling the skin back together, but the hooded figure made a second pass, sending severed fingers and hands flying. Dolich said nothing, his jaw set and knuckles white as he watched the events unfold.
Ahnya looks to Dolich for a moment, picking up on something in his voice. "Lord Dolich... Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?" The answer to that would usually mean the difference between Ahnya feeling somewhat relieved, or scared for not only her life, but all of her friends. Yes, joining the Vespidas in their castle undoubtedly saved their lives this time, but had she only prolonged the inevitable?

Those thoughts all fade away as soon as her attention is stolen by the creature that rose into the air. She grabs her rifle and is ready to aim, but when nobody seems to aim at it themselves, she hesitates. A good thing too, considering it took her a moment to notice it wore a uniform not unlike those that the Vespidas wore.

"What is that thing?!" Ahnya asks as she readies her rifle again. "It wears your colours... Is this the product of your artefact?" There's a sense of anger in her voice as she asks, an anger that many Av'rae had when exposed to human magic, magic reserved for the rich and undeserving. She had met no Av'rae who was not bitter over humans abusing what once came naturally to them.

Lucky for Dolich, she takes out her anger on the beast with more well placed shots. They were human enough that she thought she was punishing their kind at least a little. A healthy way to deal with it? No, but there was nothing healthy about that day.


Just chillin'
The Book of Night GM
At Ahnya's words, Dolich tore his eyes away from the scene before them to whirl around and face her, showing none of the boyish excitement he'd expressed earlier. He was deadly serious now, his face a grave, solemn mask. Behind him, the hundreds of bodies that made up the beast howled, a hellish chorus of agony that rang out over the castle battlements and echoed over the walls.

"You'll do well to watch closely," he said, meeting her gaze with a steely stare. "That thing is Lady Vala Vespida, soon to be the head of the house. A blind carpenter could count on one hand the number of outsiders who have seen the family's artifact in use and survived. This is one of our most closely-kept secrets, Ahnya. We're a family built on secrets, hundreds upon thousands of them kept safe within these walls. We'll never let our secrets escape, and so those fiends will never break through our walls. You have my word on that."

Looking up to the sky, he called out, loud enough for his voice to carry out over the battlefield.

"Kill it, Vala!" he called. "Do it quickly!"

The wasp-woman turned its insectoid head back towards him for a moment, its mandibles clicking before it sped off in a blur of motion back towards the monstrosity. A pair of blades appeared in her hands as she whirled around the beast, slicing through its clammy, pale skin as though it were paper. The Twisted began to spill out of the cuts like fish from a slashed net, pouring out onto the ground in still-attached clumps of four or five. Little by little, the beast began to deflate as more and more of its component creatures were wrenched from its body and fell to the ground. Dolich wasted little time, running to rally the surviving troops.

"Now," he called. "Kill them all, before it can reform. Use the Strangleroot concentrate, shower them with arrows until nothing moves!"

Once more, the poisoned arrows began to pour down upon the Twisted, even as they tried desperately to separate their fused flesh from their neighbors. They screamed and cried out as the arrows struck and the poison wracked their bodies, but the Vespida troops paid them little heed. Up above, Vala continued to dart in and out at the beast, cutting open more and more wounds for the Twisted to fall out of.
Ahna's eyes don't seem amazed or happy to see Vala, but instead have a fire burning behind them, and if Dolich could see her face, he'd be greeted with one hell of a scowl. It seems Av'rae don't like having magic flaunted around before their noses, regardless of if it's useful or not.

"I do not care who it is, or what her stature is, and I care even less to speak of it with anyone!" She's quick to reply, with just as much cold Steel as Dolich. The only sound from her after is the blasting roar from her rifle, launching black-powder-propelled iron balls into the mass of the beast, even if it is deflating.

Just as Dolich gives his orders, another comes from down below, one from a voice that Ahna knew well. It is a simple order, but one she hadn't expected. "Duck!!"

She looks down for just a moment to see Moors' large frame standing beside the team's beast of burden, a porcupine-like monster that stands about the size of a mighty ox, and as strong as about three. It didn't face them, instead, it pointed it's rear at the wall, it's spines bristled and pointing right up at them. Ahna knew exactly what that meant.

The Av' reaches out and pulls Dolich to the side, and just in time too, as Moors' looks up into the air, and upon spotting Vala pulling up to a higher altitude he gives the beast a bark of an order and the air is suddenly filled with the beast's long, javelin like quills.

The volley flies just over the gap created by the monster, where Ahna and Dolich stood just a moment before, and blankets the creature, each projectile piercing deep and crippling it's movement even as it melts. The ground around the monster isn't much safer, now covered in a blanket of long, sharp quills that pin whatever still lived below.

Ahna peers over the edge before looking down at Moors and her partly-bald porcupine beast, and merely gives a thumbs up. The rotund man gives a small sigh of relief, mostly that it hadn't hit the wasp, then gives the beast a well deserved pat on the head. He may not be able to swing a hammer with his injury, but he still had use.