|Perilous Jack and the Dwarves of the Eglantier Crest pour from the stairwell, the huge Qliphothic Engine towering over their heads, only to find that the Lizardmen have prepared for their charge.|
A hail of WrackDance-poisoned arrows rain down upon them, clattering off shield and armor, off the carapace of the war machine. The IO dances forward, impelled by the blood-thirsty dwarf at her helm, and spits blue-white lightning from the muzzles of her cannons, flinging a knot of DuskTalon Swordsmen into the black stone wall with shattering force. A wedge of Giant Lizardmen crashes into the side of the Dwarves’ formation, splitting their group in two . . . and the battle swiftly degenerates into chaos.
Through the riot and confusion, Jack perceives only a few details, bright as flames against the muddle of combat. On a platform below him, the huge flame-red axe wielded by Colonel Firebrand suddenly erupts in real flame as the Dwarf initiates its magic. Brother Wagbeard bellows an incantation that causes the earth to soften and boil beneath the feet of a trio of DuskTalons, imprisoning them to the shoulders in swiftly hardening stone. A Rock Lizard, bigger than a horse and with scales as hard as stone, suffers its flagstone-shattering death throes in the grip of the IO’s lightning. A huge Lindworm, red-scaled flanks radiant with heat, lashes with its white-hot tail at a phalanx of Dwarf axe men. A WhipTail Archer, wounded by the sting of a Dwarf throwing axe, plummets from a windowsill high in the wall to its death in the forest below . . .
A Giant Lizardman swings his huge blade, aiming for Jack’s head, and the warrior ducks low, lashing at the creature’s ankles, sending him pitching backward off the platform to crack his spine on the carapace of the IO. An arrow streaks home, wounding Jack’s side, and he plucks it out, ignoring the virulent poison. He bleeds from a dozen places, but the battle has cooled where he stands. He pauses to drink a Healing Potion, and then leaps back into the fray . . .
. . . and foot by foot, corpse by corpse, the newly invigorated Eglantier Crest pushes its way deeper into the courtyard . . . toward the towering black gates of the Great Hall.