Almendra, a Beautiful Psionic Wasteland

Seventy-Eighth Day on the Surface

DAY SEVENTY EIGHT

Early this morning I awoke to the sound of nearly three hundred dromite troops marching into Aimi, and about as many freed life crystals by their sides. Fire elementals made up most of the life crystals among them, but there was at least a handful of all four types. Yesterday afternoon Cogline had set up a canvas tent on the outskirts of town and invited us to a meeting with him and Voltun there. When we arrived mid-morning the Druid and the Consort were already there, waiting for us in full military regalia. Sandstorm stumbled inside groggily, still hung over from his heavy drinking the previous night. The others rubbed the tiredness from their eyes. I know I fought back a few yawns.

“Do you know how long until more troops arrive?” Cogline asked the Consort, seated in a chair near the back.

“I’d say about a day or two more until the duergar get here. Before we left they told us there’d be about three thousand of them.”

“Do you know how many half giants are coming?” Sandstorm piped in.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not sure.” Voltun apologized. “I only know how many duergar.”

“It’s fine, I can missive my dad about it later. He should know.”

“Now that we’re all here,” Cogline rose from his chair and summoned us around a small table with the map I’d drawn for him atop of it. “Could you show us where these secret entrances are?”

“Oh, yes. There’s a secret entrance right here.” Consort Voltun pointed to a spot near the center of the Power District. “It’s a few blocks North of the main road. The main road cuts through the middle of the district, and the entrance should pop out here.” His finger ghosted across the map to a location near the district’s northeast corner. “That one there is probably our best bet. The Market District has three secret entrances, there’s five entrances in the War District, and one in the Arts District.”

“And where are most of their troops going to be located?” Cehos circled around the table with his hands behind his back.

“I’m guessing at the four entrances into the city.” Sandstorm replied, plopping down onto the chair Cogline just vacated.

“Out of all the districts, they’re probably most highly fortified in the Market District.” Voltun continued. “They know we’re coming, plus it has all the food. So that one would be more fortified than the Power District. Much less important.”

I nodded. “Our mining operations are all that’s really in the Power District.”

Cehos briefly stopped circling the table. “Then that’s going to be a good place for us to go.”

“Yeah,” Sandstorm agreed, “Less troop concentration.”

“There’s still going to be a lot on the main roads.”

“There’s probably a lot at the entrance we’re coming in at.”

“Now, this kind of sucks, but the Queen’s Court has some cannons on it.” Voltun tapped the center of the map. “So they’re going to use those. They’re large range cannons, and have a firing range of about fifteen hundred feet.”

Damn.” Thomytix cursed quietly.

Sandstorm leaned forward. “So they’re going to use those, huh?”

“More than likely.” Voltun said gravely.

“These are the walls, but it’s an open cavern right?” Sandstorm asked, pointing to the outer edges of the city. Voltun and I nodded. “How tall is the Queen’s Court?”

“The Queen’s Court at its tallest reaches about fifty feet above the main outer walls.”

The half giant crossed his arms over his chest. “So they’re going to have field of fire on us.”

“And there’s a single cannon at the very top of the Queen’s Court, so that can hit pretty much anywhere. Our city was made for defensibility.”

“Maybe we can supply our own cannons?” Thomytix offered.

Voltun laughed a little. “Do you have a way to get them in there?”

“They probably won’t fit through the tunnel.” I added, shaking my head.

“Earth elementals.”

Voltun shot the half giant an odd look. “Earth elementals with cannons?”

“Not just that. Earth elementals with siege equipment, including ballistas and catapults.”

“We have catapults and ballistas.”

“We could tunnel them in, bury them in the front and fire, move around, un-bury and fire again.” Sandstorm explained.

“What we’re thinking though is to cut off those cannons, and have the earth elementals try to put up walls here.” Voltun pointed to an area just past the main walls. “Build the walls straight up to try to help block the cannon fire. Then the enemies have to concentrate on the wall and keeping the wall down rather than on our troops.”

“That’s actually a good idea.”

“I mean, the wall won’t be helpful for providing cover,” The Consort admitted, “But they’ll think we’re trying to provide cover and they’ll just keep trying to break it.”

“And it’ll keep our troops farther away from the cannons.” Sandstorm nodded agreeably. “But we’re only going to funnel in through one district? Not like through the War District or anything?”

“The War District is going to be a far distance away from where we’re entering in, and it’s not going to have much in terms of weaponry.”

“It’s probably already been moved out of the district.” I chimed in.

Cehos took a peek at the map. “So if we need to reach the secret entrance in the Power District, and with the long distance between the districts, we need to move fast.”

Sandstorm nodded. “Just get in and get mobile.”

“We probably don’t want to go to the main road. However, there’s a small road here.” The Consort gestured to a street close by the entrance to the district. “We already had road barricades there so there’s no way for them not to cross the main road, and they’re probably patrolling those roads. However, there is a sewer and a tunnel that can take us over there. Well, not exactly. It’ll take you about two blocks away from that secret entrance. So we can take the sewers to get there, but I just don’t like smelly things.”

“I agree with you on that.” I added, laughing.

Cehos furrowed his brow. “Well, at this rate we’re gonna have to deal with it.”

“Let the other troops deal with it, and you can hold the main line.” Sandstorm said to Voltun. “Concentrate on distracting them from where our real purposes are. Make them feel like we’re trying to take back the whole city.”

“We can still send a few dromites with you all.” Voltun offered.

“Remind me. What’s our real purpose in going to the Queen’s Court?” Cehos asked the Consort.

“I hear there’s some guy you’re supposed to get out of here?”

“Yep,” Cogline said dryly, “That’s Aldoraen. He’s supposed to be here today.”

“He’ll be here, just like Malazhar will.” Sandstorm assured him. “Gotta have faith.”

“To make them think we’re taking back the city,” Thomytix said, scrutinizing the map long and hard. “Shouldn’t we be taking the War District and empty that as a check point?”

“We can’t focus on that.” I shook my head. “The whole point is to get Aldoraen out of here.”

“I meant the main force, not us.” He clarified.

“Well, the main force is just going to be pushing at that point. How are they going to get anywhere, really?”

Cehos sat down on another chair across from Sandstorm. “What are our numbers?”

“They have so many more than us.” I sighed.

“So we should stay concentrated as much as we can.”

“We can use the the fire elementals.” Sandstorm suggested, looking expectantly at Voltun.

“That’s what they’ll expect us to do.”

Thomytix perked up. “Did you say fire elementals?”

“We have all four type of elementals. Air elementals, fire elementals, water elementals, earth elementals…” My voice trailed off.

“You’re a pyro.” Cehos spat, glaring at the elan standing across from him.

“Why yes I am a pyro.” Thomytix grinned proudly. “I went through a traumatic experience with it.”

Cehos slowly cocked an eyebrow. “How does that make you like fire?”

“I saved my friend from a burning building.”

Cinna snorted smugly. “Elans don’t have friends.”

“Some humanitarian you are.” Cehos added. He leaned forward in his chair. “This is why I hate elans.”

“Do you know if fire elementals can do ranged attacks?” Sandstorm asked Voltun, ignoring their banter.

The Consort’s smile widened. “My friend Veritos can. He’s pretty big.”

“How big is he?”

“He’s this big.” Voltun held out his hands to the half giant. As Sandstorm leaned in, a little fire elemental sparked to life on the Consort’s palms. Two beady eyes at the center of the flame gazed up at him.

The half giant snorted, leaning away. “So he’s a hand-sized fire elemental?”

“Well I don’t really want to go to my full size,” Veritos chirped, his voice high pitched. “Seeing as it would burn the whole place down.”

“Could you wholesale burn parts of the city?” Sandstorm asked the elemental with some hesitation. “Just as a distraction. Like, set the Market District on fire or something.”

“That sounds like a great plan.” The sarcasm was palliable in Cehos’ voice.

“I don’t know if I want to set the Market District on fire…” Vertios’ eyes darted off to the side. “Besides, most of the buildings are made of stone. It’s underground so there’s not very much wood to burn to begin with, and if we concentrate on all that fire we’re just going to get attacked.”

“Are any of the stones cracked?” Cinna wondered.

Voltun shrugged. “There might be now.”

“Let’s try to avoid damaging our city as much as we can…” I groaned. I hated to think what damage had already been done to Nefir, and this battle was only going to worsen it.

“It’s going to happen, Vilu.” Cehos snapped. I hung my head and shrunk away.

“And the point right now isn’t to take it back.” Sandstorm added.

“But eventually we do want to take back our city.” Voltun stared the half giant, his expression hard.

“Eventually. But who knows what they’d have done to the city by then.”

“But it’ll be easier to take back a city that’s crippled.” Cehos assured us.

“Not destroyed, but crippled.” Sandstorm clarified.

Cehos’ gaze went to Veritos. “They might’ve brought in things that are flammable though. Food, clothes, campsites…”

“They’re probably using our houses though, not flammable camp sites.” Voltun reasoned.

“Hm, we could use smoke though.” Sandstorm suggested. “So while the earth elementals are building the wall we can put up a smoke screen. It’s probably the first thing we should do before entering. Smoke screen the ever living hell out of it so by the time the smoke clears, there will be a wall, and our people firing shit, and they won’t know what to do.”

“So if Cogline can teleport us in here, why doesn’t he teleport a group up on to the cannons and destroy them?” A familiar voice said from behind. Holding open the tent’s flaps was Pe Ell. A few of his elite drow stood silently behind him. He came inside the tent and walked over by the Druid.

“If you guys can take them out, you should do it.”

“Well, honestly I think my group should be going with you.” Pe Ell’s eyes darted to his group waiting for him outside. “Less drow killing that way.”

“Gotta respect that.” Thomytix shrugged.

“It depends on how big of a group Cogline can take.”

“I can drain a lot of energy out of this.” Cogline replied, holding up his pendant once again for a brief moment. “From what I hear, the duergar are already bringing their portal up here.”

“I didn’t know the portal was mobile.” I exclaimed, incredulous.

The Druid laughed. “These are the duergar. They’ll make it mobile. And since yhey’re probably going to be our main fighting force, so we should discuss this with them. We should wrap this meeting up for now and wait a couple more days.”

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