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The Battle of Serpent's Hold

- - - - - battle hold serpent

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Cal Soulshadow

Cal Soulshadow


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Bloody Marksmen, Cal muttered.
They were back in Serpent’s Hold, like an infestation of cockroaches. Despite the fact Jurrell had assured her that he had not authorised their invasion, Devante had decided that the Kaldorians should be ousted anyway. Having failed in his initial attempt to invade the island, he had now resorted to trying to destroy it. The air was thick with smoke and brick dust and a blackened shell was all that remained of the smithy.

Cal scanned the area for enemies. The sword in her hand felt heavy; no longer an extension of her right arm as it had once been. Though her shoulder no longer gave her pain, she had not yet regained the strength she had had prior to the injury. She was out of practise and out of breath.

There! A marksman, barely visible through the swirling dust. She charged. The look of surprise on his face was only fleeting. Quickly, he loosed off an arrow in her direction and ducked around a corner.
She ran after him, her sword raised, but as she rounded the building she saw three other marksmen there, ready for her.
The arrow caught her in the ribs, knocking the air from her lungs. Her legs went from under her and she crashed to the floor.
Dots swam before her eyes as she fought to regain her breath.
Terrific, she thought sourly as the marksmen ran off in pursuit of the other Kaldorians. This was the first time she’d seen action since she’d had her shoulder broken in Minoc, and already she was down.
Coughing heavily, she rolled onto her side and, using her sword as support, began to haul herself up.

There was a soft crump. For a moment it seemed as though all the air had been sucked away, and then suddenly it was raining bricks, glass, shards of wood; twisted bits of metal.
Cal’s eyes widened as a huge hunk of something that might once have been an anvil came somersaulting towards her head.

Darkness. There was a weight on her chest. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t breathe. Then soft hands were tugging at her, pulling her free from the debris that had buried her.
Two figures, once small, one huge; their faces blackened with dust so that they resembled shadow elementals.
Cal squinted up at them. The smaller figure was trying to talk to her, but she couldn’t hear anything save for the ringing in her ears.
It was Shelly, under all that soot. And with her, Kai.

Wincing, she got to her feet. Nothing broken, thank Raza, although an arrow protruded from her breastplate at an odd angle. She could see from how much of the shaft was protruding that it hadn’t gone deep. Maybe an inch; no more.

Cal turned her and looked around her. The armoury had gone.

Bastards, she muttered, and limped off in the direction of the healers. Devante would pay for this.

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Bil surveyed the ruins from the explosion... damned Britannians...
Bil did not care much for politics, he was a simple man. It was his bussiness he cared about. He had come over with a few of the other civilians from Gorimdor with the Army units sent from Kaldor City and the surrounding regions. It was bussiness he sought, and also.. to do his patriotic duty..

As little he cared for war and the like, he deeply loved his Nation. As a child growing up, even in the far northern frozen lands of Ceita, he had been told the History of Kaldor Heartease, and his banishment from Akalabeth by his evil brother Mondain.

All Kaldorian children knew the stories.. and he held great pride in his heritage. He grew to be a large man, like the people in Ceita, and he was hardened by the cold. Trained as a smith and tinker.. now he was here.. IN AKALABETH of all places.. now called Britannia by some conquering Lord named British..

And here he stood on Serpents Hold.. he finally had a city to call home, to work in.. and now the damned Britannians had blwon up the smithy and armoury.

He surveyed the damage.. discussed it with the Commander, recently injured in the attack, and left the Island thorugh what little magic means he had.

Bil arrived just north of Strongholt. He was the dockmaster for the small port and customs the Army had here, and a transport ship had recently arrived from Gorimdor. He wrote down his order.. granite.. timber.. the best they could get. It would take weeks, and he would get what he needed to start from the Island itself, but he wanted to rebuild a stronger armoury and smithy, with materials he trusted.

He was sure it was the poor Britannian construction that had succumbed so quickly to explosives... this would not happen again..

He drew up planes, and posted notice around Strongholt for the other crafters to see.

"My Fellow Citizens: Our Army has recently been attacked and our Island refuge of Serpents Hold had its armoury and smithy blown to bits. Please gather what resources you can, and help as much as ye can, to rebuild these structures. Let us replace those Britannian structures with good solid Kaldorian monoliths! Head out to the Island and get to work as best you can!"

Bil gathered his tools and mounted his trusted beetle. Hoping this strange magic transport would work, he spoke the words, and returned to Serpents Hold to get to work.



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Sailing back from their defeat in Serpents Hold, Devante sits.. quietly thinking to himself about what just happened....
Am I out of my depth here ?... a small, underfunded and scrappy regiment taking on a whole Army of Kaldorians alone ?,
No we must carry on..the Kaldorians must be punished for their invasion of Minoc, If we don't stop them in Serpents Hold now then they are free to carry out their invasion of Britannia...again.

Even though the odds are against us.... We must fight on... The Kingdom must be restored.

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Cal Soulshadow

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Cal smiled as she read Talon’s report.

Devante’s marksmen had attempted to invade Serpent’s Hold a second time, but, thanks to some luck on Kaldor’s part, the invasion had been thwarted.

A brigand had approached one of the sorcerers with a set of battle plans he had apparently stolen from a marksman. The plans detailed three locations on Serpent’s Hold, though not which of the locations would be the Marksmen’s landing point. The Kaldorians would have to go and investigate.

Lead by Captain Talon, the platoon patrolled the island stronghold, eventually finding the archers at the northern docks.

A bloody fight followed, with several of the Kaldorians receiving injuries, though Talon’s squad prevailed.

The Marksmen would not be beaten, however, and withdrew by ship to the southern isle, and the second point they had marked on their map.

The Kaldorians attacked a second time, and this time made short work of Devante’s men. Though they rallied to try twice more, they couldn’t manage to hold off the better trained Kaldorian troops, and were forced to flee to their ship once more.
This time, they did not return.

Cal wondered what the hell Devante thought he was playing at. Jordan Jurrell was adamant that the council had not authorised this invasion, and given that he had given Serpent’s Hold into Kaldor’s safe keeping, the Marksmen’s actions seemed foolish and misguided, not to mention suicidal.

If Devante persisted with this course of action, she would have no option but to have him brought in. General Paladis had already said that Devante should be made an example of, and that Sergeant Mordred would carry out his punishment. Cal frowned deeply as she thought about her ex-husband’s friendship with the enemy captain, and wondered of the general’s orders had anything to do with Mordred’s mysterious absence from Strongholt.

Still, no one else would have any qualms about dealing with Devante. An archer needed two things: good eyesight, and strong fingers. Take one of those away and he would be as good as useless.

Smiling faintly, she put the report down and went downstairs to brew some tea. The next weeks would certainly be interesting…

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Cal Soulshadow

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Cal had been training hard since her last encounter with the Marksmen. She had been foolish to rush back into battle so quickly, and her lack of fitness had let her down. She wouldn't be making that mistake again.

Today, though, she felt more confident; not just in herself, but also in the abilities of her men. After last week's victory, she knew the Marksmen didn't have a prayer against the Kaldorians. Perhaps that was an arrogant assumption, but she didn't feel that their hearts were in it. They were fighting out of some misguided sense of duty rather than because they felt passionately about their cause. Perhaps Devante did, but Cal suspected that it was more because he was under pressure from Yew.

The general had wanted Devante captured and made an example of. Perhaps that would get through to him. Or perhaps not. The general had been very specific that it should be Mordred who carried out the punishment.

Though his face was concealed by his helm, Cal knew from the stiff way in which he carried himself that he was tense and unhappy about the prospect.
Still, before Devante could be captured, they had first to defeat the archers.

They found them occupying the south-east guard post. The Marksmen tried distraction tactics, but the Kaldorians were too strong this time. Battered and bloodied, the Marksmen fought as best they could, but once they had lost the outpost and the advantage of elevation it afforded them, they were beaten.

Flicking the blood from her sword, Cal stepped over one of the fallen Marksmen and scanned the jungle. There, a glint of bronze, moving slowly. Devante.
"Sergeant," she said, pointing to the defeated captain, "he's all yers."

Mordred went easy on him, Cal thought. Rather than maim him permanently, he gave the captain a last warning, and then had him flogged.

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Though he was half-conscious when they had finished with him, Cal knew it could have been a lot worse. She hoped that the general would be satisfied. She also hoped that Devante would heed the warning and end his foolish crusade. Somehow, though, she knew that this would not be the last of it. In fact, it was quite possibly only the beginning.

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Cal Soulshadow

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Mordred was furious.
I?ll rip out yer heart and feed it ter the dogs.
That was the message he?d left for Devante with his lieutenant, though whether Felix had passed it on to his captain, she wasn?t sure.

She?d just spent the last hour talking to Devante in the Keg and Anchor, trying to bring about an ending to this idiotic war.
Yet, whilst he?d calmed down enough to listen to her reasoning, he remained steadfast in his views.

Minoc, she knew, was a big black eye for the loyalists, and Devante sought redemption through his foolish war on Serpent?s Hold. It was not, he reasoned, part of the Kingdom now that Kaldor was there, and he sought to rectify that apparent wrong. The fact that Commander Jurrell had given Kaldor leave to use it as their base, and the fact that the Ruling Council had not dictated otherwise, cut no ice with Devante. He was on a crusade, and no amount of logic or Kaldorian history lessons would persuade him otherwise.

Cal sighed deeply as she climbed into bed, knowing that, for all she had tried, she had failed, and that the war would continue anew tomorrow.

Gwen, the pretty elf who had taken over VanQa?s tavern, and Devante?s lover, would be disappointed, but there was nothing Cal could do about that. The most she could do right now was to ensure that Mordred did not carry out his threat to start cutting off the Marksmens? fingers if they dared showed their faces in the Hold again.

Suffice to say, Mordred?s friendship with Devante was in tatters, and after the flogging incident last week, had now become a feud. She had told Devante that it was not Mordred?s idea to punish him, and that he had been under orders to do so. In fact, he had Mordred to thank that he hadn?t been permanently maimed, for Mordred could have opted to cripple him by removing some fingers or an eye.

Not that it mattered now. The war would continue, no matter what the cost to the Marksmen. Devante was a fool; a proud fool. And as long as he refused to admit he was wrong, his men would suffer.

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Cal Soulshadow

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Even with two Knight Templars (now that was a new development, Cal thought), the Marksmen met with another crushing defeat on the isle of Serpent?s Hold. Why Devante persisted with this charade, she did not know. He couldn?t win, didn?t he understand that?

?I?ll check the docks,? she told her men, once the last of the Marksmen had limped off. They would be gone, their tails between their legs once more, she suspected, wrongly, as it turned out.
A lone Marksman remained; a look somewhere between annoyance and resignation on fer face.
Elise. Devante?s ex-fianc?e. Cal?s friend.
?Hello Cal,? she said.

After Elise had been questioned and secured safely in Strongholt, Cal set out towards Trinsic, curious to see whether the Guardsmen Militia had made good on their threat towards the City of Honour.
She didn?t get that far, however.
As she walked past the Rose, she found Mordred and Devante.
The captain?s face was like thunder.
?Give her back!? he demanded.
Cal raised an eyebrow. ?Ye shouldae have left her all on her lonesome, Captain. Bad form, that.?
?Stop talking crap! I want her now!? A large vein stood out on Devante?s forehead. It looked ready to burst.
?Perhaps ye nay deserve her,? Cal said evenly. ?Ye did leave her at our mercy, after all.?
?I?m hardly in the mood, Cal. Release her now.?
Cal smiled. ?Ye can have her back, on the condition that ye cease this stupid war.?
?No. Release her now.?
Devante levelled his crossbow at Cal?s head and let fly a bolt.
It missed only narrowly, almost parting her hair in the process.
Quickly, she slammed on her helm and set off in pursuit of the foolish captain.

Devante may have been a fool, and an angry fool at that, but he was also a fast runner, and a good shot. Several shots clipped her, denting her armour and making her stumble, but finally, as they reached the edge of Strongholt, one found its mark.
No doubt he had aimed for her chest, but the shot went a little wide, catching her on the inside of her left arm.
As she struggled to catch her breath, she found her arms being wrenched back and tied roughly; a crossbow levelled at her head.
?Hold it or she gets it,? she heard him say. ?I want Elise.?
?I don?t have her.?
It was a female voice. Shelly, Cal realised.
?Point that thing somewhere else,? Shelly growled.
?No, get Elise.?
Heavy footsteps approached from the north.
?Mordred, NO!?
The maul sergeant was attacking Devante. She braced herself, expecting the worst, but he did not fire. He was hot tempered, but no cold-blooded killer, she realised.
?Untie me, Shelly, if ye would,? she said, as the two men ran off into the jungle.
Shelly nodded and cut the rope that bound Cal?s hands.
A warm, wetness was starting to spread inside Cal?s plate arm. The wound needed tending, and quickly.

Leaving the two mauls to deal with Devante, Cal began the business of removing the bolt.
When she was done, she was displeased to find that, not only had Devante eluded capture, but he had also taken down Shelly, and was using her as a hostage.

It was the same demand, over and over.
?Give me Elise, now.?

He told Cal they would make the exchange at the Rose; something that would not please Gwen, who wanted to keep the battle out of the Elven Quarter.
He was obviously desperate, Cal realised.
Shelly was a tough girl. She had been abducted before, and by far worse people than the Marksmen. Though Cal was reluctant to leave her, she knew that a night in captivity would do her little harm.
No, Devante was not a cold-blooded killer, but the Kaldorians?they were another matter entirely.

She delivered Elise?s Marksman sash to him, stained as it was by Elise?s blood.
He could spend a sleepless night, fretting over it. It would serve him right.

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Elise paced around the room and sighed, checking her bandage for the umpteenth time. The cut had been clean enough, and bandaged straight away, and it wasn’t like she’d been ill treated. Quite the opposite, in fact. Yet she still felt uneasy. The threats to chop off fingers and “teach her a lesson” still rang loud in her ears, and she didn’t doubt for a moment that if things went really badly, someone would likely come and slit her throat in retribution, despite Cal’s assurance that she was the only one with a key to her "cell".

She’d heard from Cal that Devante had captured one of the Maul Knights, Shelly, in an attempt to bargain for an exchange of prisoners. Nothing had come of it yet, however, apart from the deliberate bloodying of her Marksman sash, or “sending a message”, as Cal referred to it. Elise began pacing the room again, frowning and muttering. She’d played it cool, and co-operated fully. Not much choice really, given that she’d been captured alone.

She stopped pacing a moment and nodded, just once, thanking providence that she and Cal were friends, even now, it seemed, despite the situation. She had to put all her trust in that friendship, she realised, starting to pace again, and in Cal’s control over the rest of the Kaldorians. Only that would keep her alive if Devante refused to settle terms with Kaldor on her behalf. She sighed, realising the true question was whether she was as valuable to the Regiment and its Captain as Devante had stated when she returned, or whether he was just keeping her around to pander to his own vanity.




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Shelly lost sight of Devante again in the jungle... Mordred was nowhere to be seen anymore. Her legs weighed heavily and she was feeling sore all over her body but she ignored it and kept running. Maul knight armour wasn't designed for this, it was too heavy. She and mordred had been chasing devante for ages around strongholt. But now she was alone, and it was tiring her out... Devante was very fast, and he didn't need to stand still to shoot.
An arrow hit a tree just millimeters above her head, there he was again....
She pursued him, but she was less lucky this time, an arrow pierced through her leggings just above her ankles and she fell down before she realised what had happened. By the time she regained her senses devante had already tied her hands behind her back.
Now it was her turn to get the crossbow shoved against her head. But it didn't help him much this time either. Cal did offer to take her place, but to shelly's relief devante only was interested in one thing: elise. The commander was needed in strongholt.
Devante took her to their swamp and locked her up in some sort of cell. They didn't treat her bad though. Apart from one hit with reed's crossbow she wasn't touched, and she had already hit him back. Charlotte offered her some apples but she refused to eat or drink anything. They were friendly enough, but if she saw her chance she'd try to get out...

Cal Soulshadow

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Harry?s report was reassuring. Although he had been unable to release Shelly from her locked cell, he had, at least, managed to locate her, and had been able to talk to her through the bars.
She was being well-treated. Devante, she said, wouldn?t dare touch her.

Satisfied that she had made the right decision, Cal went to check on Elise, and change the dressing on her cut. Her own arm hurt a fair bit, and had bled a lot in the night, but at least it didn?t appear to be infected. Elise?s cut, however, looked to be healing nicely.

As she bandaged Elise?s wrist, her old friend requested some writing paper. She had a message for Devante, and hoped that Cal would get it to him.

Half an hour later, Cal was standing ankle-deep in swamp water, just outside building where Shelly was being detained.
She looked up and saw Hugo, the young Viper, crouched on the roof of Shelly?s cell. Evidently he had not managed to release her, but from the way he put his finger to his lips, Cal knew that Shelly must have visitors. She knocked on the door.

?Hello Cal.? It was Devante who opened it. He seemed calmer. A lot calmer. Jovial, almost.
?I've a letter from Elise fer ye,? she replied, straight and to the point.
?Come in.? He gestured for her to enter the cell.
It was clean but, with its ceiling-high bars, open to the elements. She would not relish spending any length of time in here at this time of year.
?I gather yer alright, Shelly,? she said, turning to the young maul.
?I will not let him hurt her,? said a female Marksman. It was the Tokuno girl Grego had once dated, she realised. Yukiko.
?I would not hurt her,? Devante said, looking slightly hurt. ?I?m not a Covian.?
Cal nodded. ?No, I thought ye?d not.?
?I would suggest you trade places with her commander,? Yukiko said. ?She is a mother!?
Not being a mother herself, that thought hadn?t really occurred to Cal. Ella had care and would be alright, but she would be missing Shelly.
?But she?s the commander,? Shelly said, frowning.
Cal smiled. ?Aye, but she makes a good point. Go with Hugo.?
Hugo stepped forward into the light. ?If anyone?s going in, it?s me.?
?They?d pay us te take ye back,? Cal replied dryly.
?Why don?t you just let him have Elise?? Shelly asked. ?She?s not worth your being in here. He won?t stop the war anyhow.?
Cal shushed her. ?Just go. Let me sort this out.?
Shelly looked doubtfully at Devante, who just shrugged. ?I won?t hurt her.?

?So,? Cal said, once they?d gone, ?what are ye going te do about Yew??
?Nothing,? Devante replied.
Cal leaned against the bars. ?They attacked a Trinsic training session earlier. Includin? Gwen. Who, by the way, is not happy wi? ye.?
Devante made a face. ?Aye, just spoke to her. Anyway, what did I tell you the other day??
?Ye said ye?d probably help Trinsic.?
?We defend Britannia. So when Trinsic ask for help, they shall have it.?
?And what about Serpent?s Hold??
?If Trinsic requests help, then we will likely pause our campaign. I need to speak to the duke.?
?Tenight, I believe,? Cal said with a wry smile. ?Round about now.?
?But I?m obviously busy.?
Devante glanced outside, then frowned. ?Another viper. A captain, no less.?
?One eye??
He nodded.
Cal smiled. ?That?ll be Talon, then.?
?Why is he here??
?Doing his job.?
?So what about Elise??
?If ye agree te aid the duke, and put the Serpent's Hold campaign on hold, I will return her.?
?It?s not really up to me, is it? The duke has to request our help.?
?I?m certain that he will,? Cal said confidently.
Devante looked at Yukiko. ?Invite that captain in, would you??

A while later, Talon was standing outside the Marksmen headquarters with Elise. As Cal left the cell, she couldn?t help but smile. Devante insisted that it was an exchange of prisoners, but as Talon insisted, that was not quite the truth.
Cal had got what she wanted, after all: a ceasefire, and Shelly?s freedom. And she still had her sword, she noted with a smile.
The gambit had paid off. Things were about to change.

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