The Retaking of Vinoricco, Luminii

Return to the Imperial Library | Return Home

Bitewind 24, 1261

The once vibrant city of Vinoricco seemed to be little more empty. Those once lush vinyards that had not been devoured over the last few months had withered to the cold and neglect. It was hard to imagine that so many had once gathered here to partake of the autumn harvest, the rich and the poor celebrating the bounty of Luminii's land.

Storm clouds gathered in the sky, obscuring both moonlight and clear view of what state Vinoricco was in. Snow had already fallen several feet thick and continued to blanket the ground to conceal what signs of life might have existed. Most were clad in leather to face the army, but those in anything but found the cold and wet environment uncomfortable progress.In the silence of the city's lifeless husk, at the edge of the forest, warriors gathered in an attempt to take back Vinoricco and banish its invaders at any cost. The Emperor had sent out the call, and it had been answered by those from all walks of life.

Emperor Tumian himself was there to lead the group, with Annabella Morningstar at his side in leather instead of robes. The usual partner in any of the Hive's endeavors, the Mad Mage Icaruss ap-ol Ithgath, was nowhere to be seen. His interests, perhaps, lay elsewhere.

To ensure the safety the group, several items were given out. Five blue stones to seasoned warriors which, when activated, could protect them from harm for a limited amount of time. One Elven cloak was handed out which could allow the wearer to blend into the surroundings. To the Archmagess of Vivomancy, oddly enough, a crossbow that allowed the wielder to see at far distances. And the Emperor himself bore the enchanted sword, Dawn's Embrace.

The gathering of warriors split into two groups, the Emperor leading one. As the warriors moved through the skeleton of San Santiangio Vineyard, the only activity was pinpoints of light against a backdrop of black, working steadily in the distance, ignoring their presence if it was even known.

One of the warriors was heard to mutter something about glowing spears. From far behind and gaining ground on the other warriors, a young nine-year-old boy, Devon the Daring, was cheering his deeds to come.

Feasting quietly on a grapevine, a hive drone was spotted. The group was caught unaware as giant insects of every shape suddenly moved into action, fleeing or attacking at their whim. Armored carapaces gave way to membranous wings, the thunderous sound of flight following.

The feasting drone, startled, belched a spray of acid that completely disintegrated a dagger. Most of the insects had fled, but those that remained, some almost the size of dwarves, fought fiercely, holding the humanoid warriors at bay, even as reinforcements for the Emperor's forces began to trickle in from beyond the treeline. Those who used non-enchanted metal equipment saw it suddenly dissolving in the bodily fluids of the insects, no matter what they did to slow it down. Flesh reacted badly as well, although the burns were less than the destruction to metal.

Amid the chaos, even Archmagess Morningstar herself, paragon of peace, was seen fighting to take back her city from the invaders. Showing the complete and utter courage of his less than ten years, Devon the Daring showed himself valiantly at the side of the more experienced warriors.

Joining the initial group of armored drones and even smaller flying insect were enormous mantids with bladed arms waded into the melee, slashing against the combatants.

And then the earth itself began to shake. Sinkholes opened at their feet, an enormous creature with gnashing mandibles baring its head. It stared directly at the combat and vanished back into the ground from whence it came. On the tail of the brief moment of relief that followed, more drones appeared, the source of the pinpoints of light all too obvious as glowing spears were wielded against the Emperor's soldiers.

From above, even more hive came to support the warriors, a line of insects, smaller than the drones but by no means small for insects, came biting and scratching at the almost overwhelmed invaders.

Tumian Dreven showed that he had a few tricks in his bag. He threw a stone into the Hive which exploded in a ball of flame. All it seemed to do was enrage the unharmed creatures even more, turning their attentions upon him. As they began to overwhelm him, the glow of Dawn's Embrace erupted to protect him from their assault.

Gheldan Kirash from Khorezim discovered they held another immunity as well. His repeated attempts at magical illusions were completely ignored, except to draw some of the Hive's ire off of the Emperor and toward himself.

Zharyka Jelahldoran, one of the later arrivals, held a strange tube at her side. While the flame magic attacks did not seem to work, the magic of her weapon was absolutely successful in the destruction of the insects, although the time for recharge gave them ample time to retaliate.

In the meantime, Devon the Daring was lifted from the melee, carried off into the sky by one of the Hive. After one final scream, he was silenced by the close of the creature's jaws. The first casualty to combat.

The remaining Hive fled into the confines of the hole created by the largest insect, but on the horizon, a line of thin creatures appeared. Just as the first wave of Hive attackers had seemed to wane, arrows rained down upon the heads of the warriors, pinning them down. As if that had not been enough, drones returned with their glowing spears.

As the warriors sought cover in the woods from the hail of arrows, the heated spears set the woods to burn and smoke, preventing them from retreating for cover. Those who were fortunate to be standing nearby were protected by the glowing magical shield of the Emperor's sword, Dawn's Embrace.

The vibrations of the ground below began again, this time not just one but several holes opening in the ground one after another, restricting the movements of the attackers, causing them to stand and fight.

The unwary treader found himself falling into the darkness of one of these sinkholes. The Emperor once again showed himself resourceful and well connected as he threw a set of green stones into the sky, which, glowing with light, sought out targets and struck them from the sky. And once again Zharyka's blunderbuss let loose a blast of energy that struck a javeliner from the sky... and drew another's attention.

Although set upon by one of the creatures, several times faster than a human despite the weight of armored skin... with the efforts of Zharyka's comrades, her life was saved.

Battered, broken, and burned by the acid of the Hive, the warriors waded further through the snow, around the pools of acidic blood, toward the center of the town, toward the enormous towering structure that stretched upward into the blackness of night and housed the key to the campaign, the death of the Hive Mother. But the environment had grown as still as it had been when they first arrived, less the steady flocking of glowing red lights.

Tanador walked along, passing a corpse that seemed to move still despite a look of death upon its face. He drew his blade across the belly only to release a long, writhing worm which was quickly sliced in half by the fall of his blade.

The Hive were breeding, and they were using the citizens to accomplish this.

And, on top of this, their numbers had decreased as several of them went missing.

As they attempted to rest and dress their wounds, the earth gave birth to enormous red creatures, ten feet tall wielding blades in each of four hands, armored in chitinous plating from head to toe. Shock set in as they were once again set upon, but even as they readied for battle, another pair appeared to flank them.

They were almost the size of golems, but Kendra, the wielder of the sword Golembane, found its weight less than appropriate for the task of single-handedly facing one of the swift and large creatures. Still, it was quite capable of piercing the creature's armor, when and if a hit could be landed.

Once again, Emperor Tumian's bag of enchanted tricks was opened, this time drawing a pair of batons of a strange black metal. Each blow was capable of degrading the armor of one of the enormous generals. A key to defeating several of the creatures as well as the energy blasts of the blunderbuss.

As if enormous insects resembling golems were a burden to the fighters, reinforcements came as a swarm of insects to break up the party.

For a moment, the Outlander warrior swung the blade Dawn's Embrace, when the emperor saw him about to be overwhelmed by the Hive. Finding himself wielding only a dagger against a foe, the Emperor relinquished his own to the man, only to later trade him for the pair of necromantic batons he carried.

Navigating the field of acid-seeping carcasses and deadly green pools of Hive effluence, the warriors had arrived. Within, humans who were little more than mindless zombies, bellies bulging with the writhing Hive larvae, were prodded along by their drone caretakers. It was a breeding ground.

Sinkholes once again appeared, but much closer than they had come before, combining into a single enormous opening at the warriors' feet. The remaining drones fled as a rumble erupted from below. Scythe like claws reached from the opening to drag scattered carcasses into its gaping depths and, winding like a snake, something appeared. Accompanying it, crushing other creatures beneath its foot, an enormous armored red creature trudged its way down the street.

The first resembled a centipede of some sort, ten feet from belly to head, six claws with enormous scythes on each arm. And it proved itself to be a mean bastard. The second a beetle, enormous blades like greatswords on each arm. The Emperor had one stone left and with a final throw, the Red Goliath was crippled, three of its arms exploding from its side.

A dark silhouette flitted on enormous wings to the top of the Hive structure. It laughed with a feminine voice mixed with an inhuman chittering.

The Hive Mother was taller than a human with two legs but four arms. Its form was completely human except for the chitinous scales that covered the curves of her body.

With her supervising, her children went out to play. The crippled goliath fiercely waded into combat with the majority of warriors, scythe-like blades flying out to rend at flesh. The mean bastard faced no such limitations, softening moving with the speed of a viper to weave in and out of the crowds, finally settling on a fencing match with three of the creatures.

The battle was fierce and bloody as the creatures tossed the smaller humans aside, battering their bodies against the rubble of the almost leveled Vinoricco. Looking on with complete satisfaction, the Hive Mother hovered.

And Zharyka aimed another shot directly at the exposed Hive Mother. And Zharyka missed horribly as the creature ducked out of the way of the blast.

The Hive Mother was not amused. She put her magical prowess into play, fire pouring like water over the earth, over the warriors, causing steam to rise from the snow and fill the air, sending the humanoids fleeing.

With many of the warriors having fallen back, the skeleton crew was left to face their greatest challenge yet. Confidence had caused the mean bastard to mock those who stood against it, fear caused the already crippled Red Goliath to lash out recklessly against superior numbers if not superior strength. And the necromantic batons of Collum Wallace battered weakly against the metallic blades of the enormous hive creatures as he sought to close with the creature's organic armor amid a wall of slashing blades and a rain of metal dissolving, flesh burning acid.

Having given up her blunderbuss, Zharyka seemed battered by an invisible force, cries of pain buckling her while her comrades defended her from the enormous red armored creature that sought to close with her, trampling others underneath.

Zharyka had come under an assault from the Hive Mother's other abilities, a mental barrage that she futilely fought back against. Coming to her aid, though, was the Khorezim warrior Gheldan Kirash, bearing his own skills against the Hive Mother.

For all of the good it had done. The Hive Mother was as capable up close as she was from afar, leaving a carpet of flame, swooping down to bear her staff against her humanoid assailants, cutting cleanly through the group.

But as combat continued, a final swoop at Zharyka put the Hive Mother face to face with the business end of the blunderbuss.

To the relief of the other fighters, as the Hive Mother lit up and exploded outward to shower all in a bath of Hive blood, her guardians began to relent, their attacks growing less organized. With a few final pushes against the opposition, the Emperor's warriors persevered.

Perhaps such was the same ultimate end for the other Hive creatures now lacking a Hive Mother. Although they were broken, bleeding, and barely alive, there was a light of hope.

With the remaining citizens of Vinoricco beyond salvation, the entire Hive structure was set aflame, the people within burned along with it. In the aftermath, the warriors nursed their wounds and moved to where they could better receive treatment.

Gheldan's Khorezim talent of teleportation made it possible to remove the most wounded from the city to the distant Vivomantic enclave of Nostrum, although the rest were treated right there.

Arriving from the woods after the battle, Eltanathen Selduth appeared eager to participate, although too late for the battle. With the only carriage, he escorted people out of the city... along with more than a few souvenirs of his journey.

The lists of those who joined the Emperor and Arch-Magess included such heroes as:

Collum Wallace
Gjaki the Singer
Shay Greystone
Tanador Derrilyn
Shad Grey
Teagen Quiterie
Gheldan Kirash

Ocirec Laraydus
Devon the Daring
Zharyka Jelahldoran
Kendra Rulyar
Zacharius Blake
Karsh Silvermoon


Return to the Imperial Library | Return Home