Part 3: Too Late
(See also: The Fall of Corsa)
The team leaves Weathermark Hill. Having temporarily fixed the Glade, they need to get back to Corsa to make their report. The city is just visible in the distance and the magic wards appear to be gone. That means one of two things: the city has won or it has fallen.
There’s a small debate as to the group’s direction. Kiara suggests that they go to her home, a longer journey but one where they might be able to get supplies and horses. Cyrio suggests they go back to the zap-gate they took to the Glade, which would take them directly to the city, assuming they can get it working again.
They decide on the zap-gate and the team travels back to the tree with the gate. The zap-gate is damaged but Cyrio manages to get it working again. Thanks to his skill with magic, he is able to program its destination. The wizard decides on the most direct way back and sets the zap-gate to take them directly to the steward’s quarters in Corsa’s palace.
Not knowing what to expect, the team readies their weapons and steps through the gate. Nothing could have prepared them for what’s on the other side.
The steward’s chamber is littered with bodies. Dozens of Paladins lay dead all over the room. The steward himself is dead, with his hand on the zap-gate’s control. Whatever attacked them made its way to the tallest tower in the palace, cut through a platoon of Corsa’s finest fighters, and killed the steward before he could even activate his escape route.
The rest of the palace is full of the dead. The defenders fought for every step of the palace but obviously it was not enough. Nobody is alive.
Vash, Cyrio, and Kiara are desperate to find their friends who were left in the city. They proceed to the first floor and the palace’s other zap-gate.
The carnage here is even worse than the steward’s chamber. Scores of soldiers and civilians are strewn about. All were clearly trying to access the zap-gate but didn’t make it in time.
Amid the dead, they find General Antilleous. Whatever killed him appeared to have melted a hole in his armor and ripped his heart out. Many other soldiers have similar wounds.
Cyrio receives a vision from his Sprite:
Platoons of soldiers, alive, are hustling civilians through the gate. The general is standing with a sword in his hand, giving orders. As the last of the civilians go through, the Paladins begin to retreat. Cyrio’s friend Grant, missing part of his arm, is taken through the gate to apparent safety.
Void Sprites pour from the zap-gate and hit the defenders from behind. Antilleous is one of the first to die as, taken off guard, the soldiers are slaughtered.
As the vision fades, several Sprites appear and attack. The group easily fights them off and continues into the palace’s courtyard.
The sight is familiar; hundreds of bodies litter the space. The gates are blown open and hang charred and useless. Cyrio receives another vision:
Paladins fight in the courtyard and Grant is among them. An Orc cuts off Grant’s arm and several of his comrades lead him away from the fight. Soon after he leaves, Sprites stream out of the palace and sweep through the remaining defenders.
The streets are quiet. Silent. Nothing moves except for a few tattered flags and smoke rising from the ruins of the city.
The team makes its way through the streets, stepping over bodies and rubble.
Their first stop is the Church of the Five (because hospitals are always safe in apocalyptic events, right?). Vash’s friend, a hobbit who received a demon-cursed wound, is nowhere to be found.
Cyrio gets another vision and shares it with Vash:
Orcs rampage through the church, killing everyone as the priestesses try to evacuate the wounded. A new figure appears, a shadowy, hooded person with a glowing red sword. He approaches the hobbit and the priestess trying to help him. The figure kills the woman, looks at the hobbit, and lets him go.
Puzzled and worried, the team continues to Hamand’s house. Cyrio shares his next vision with Kiara:
Hamand hurries to set his house in order and prepare for battle. He seals books and other magical items in a warded closet. He picks up a picture of Kiara and breaks into tears. After composing himself, he draws his sword and leaves.
Kiara and Cyrio open the closet by deactivating the wards with the symbol they saw Hamand draw. Kiara finds several books, written in a language she can’t read. She keeps them for later and they move on.
They go to the stables, hoping to find Vash’s friend and some horses to escape the city. They find the horses and another vision.
Hamand and Malik meet in the stable. They converse for a moment before Malik leaves. As Hamand saddles a horse, the shadow-figure from the church appears. Hamand attempts to flee but it blocks his escape. He fights, and fights well, but his blades are of no use against the creature. After tiring, the figure stabs him with his red-hot swords. Hamand disappears without a trace.
Unable to calm the horses and fearing an encounter with the shadow-man, the group leaves and heads for the closest gate out of the city.
The gate has been blasted to pieces and the charred and mutilated remains of many Paladins lies around the burned buildings.
Cyrio gets a final vision:
_A company of Paladins, over a hundred men, stands in formation facing the gate. The doors are suddenly blown open, spraying burning wood fragments over everyone. The Voidfather, the skeletal dragon seen at the start of the attack, marches into the city, followed by an army of Orcs. The dragon blazes, literally, through the ranks of soldiers and the Orcs finish off the survivors.
Master Pelgrade stands in the middle of them, blasting Orcs with magic. The dragon flies off and another figure, similar to the shadow-man charges. As it and Pelgrade meet, the master warlock explodes in a cloud of flame, incinerating the attacking figure and dozens of Orcs. More Orcs quickly take their place and swarm into the city._
In the small pile of ashes that was Pelgrade, the team finds a medallion. They don’t have time to examine it, however, as a horde of spectral Orcs appears. They fight, and fight hard. Outnumbered 4:1 and having used most of their magic on the Sprites in the palace, the team struggles to maintain cohesion.
Cyrio uses a blast of thunder to destroy several of the Void Orcs, but since his friends were in danger of friendly fire, the wizard is left unprotected and gets surrounded.
Vash and Argonath fight together and kill many of the Orcs. They attempt to stick together but are separated. Vash gets swarmed and Argonath is backed against a wall.
Jenner tries to take on a few and end up facing six enemies by himself. Kiara comes to his rescue, killing one and giving him an opportunity to duck away. He retreats, leading his small pack of Orcs away from the fight. While leading them, he knocks over a burned, rickety building, killing one and cutting off the others for a moment.
Kiara weaves her way through the battle, killing Orcs as they fight the others. Her luck eventually runs out and the enemies get a few lucky hits on her. She tries to teleport out of the battle with her special dagger and find herself directly in front of an Orc that just freed itself from the house Jenner knocked over.
For a moment it looks like they’re going to be overrun. Cyrio is the first to go down, having expended all of his magic. Kiara is next and is left helpless and separated from the group as an Orc beats her down. Vash, having been hit dozens of times, struggles to remain standing.
Jenner stops Vash from being killed and the two fight off the rest of the Orcs swarming Argonath, then help Cyrio back to his feet. They rescue Kiara from the last Orc and find themselves once again alone.
Most of the team is barely clinging to life or consciousness. Carrying Kiara, they stumble into the closest building that’s not about to collapse.
They’ve fought off almost a full platoon of Void-Orcs. If they managed to do that, how many more must there have been if they could overrun all of Corsa?
The team, haunted by what they’ve seen and dreading the horrors that are sure to come, rests for a moment in the middle of the dead city.