Retreating before the Gargoyle and Kal-a-Nar troops, the heroes send Zaro flying ahead to warn the others and have them prepare. Alfie meets Zaro at the gate.
The Alchemist decides it will be best to activate one of the golems; to allow it to slow the Kal-a-Nar troops while they retreat behind the safety of the gate. He debates which golem to activate, standing ready at the golem with a sword.
Reener and Rakepick, moving faster than the others, run ahead and secure themselves in the crack leading to the ventilation shaft used in the escape of Dourin Limestone from the tunnels nearly a hundred years ago. From there, they watch the other move past: First the the escapees, then the rangers Karrol and Leandron, and then the Gargoyle and a large number of Kal-a-Nar. When all others have passed, they follow at a safe distance, intending to spy, flank, or cut down any messengers sent back to the surface.
At the Gate, Leandron confirms that Anton identified the sword-wielding golem as the hostile guardian. This seems to suit Alfie’s purpose.
As the Gargoyle rounds the last corner, Gandogar moves to the side of the passage. However, as Gandogar suspects he was seen and Leandron ordered everyone into the city to recover, the dwarf reconsiders his action.
As the Gargoyle lumbers forward, Alfie slides the crysarium into place and darts into the city, letting the gate latch shut behind him.
The sound of battle between the Gargoyle and the Golem are loud enough to reach through the door’s thick metal. A vicious blow rattles the door, shaking dust from the archway, and then a commanding female voice cuts over the din. Silence resumes.
More orders are given. In the mine, their meaning cannot be understood, but Rakepick and Reener overhear the Kal-a-Nar War Priestess ordering some of her troops to the surface. They prepare an ambush, dispatching a few, but are outnumbered by multiple Ratzin, a trio of Kal-a-Nar warriors, and an archer.
They begin to fall back, but their progress is hampered. First Rakepick, then Reener are surrounded. They break free, but are either unable to maintain their lead or unwilling to leave the other behind.
In the midst of this, Karrol, who has pushed past the limits of his normal magical endurance at great peril to himself, reaches out and contacts Rakepick telepathically.
Knowing that they’re allies are in danger, the party throws open the gate and sets out.
Both the Gargoyle and the Golem are still standing. The gargoyle, bleeding, has retreated to the tunnels. The Golem, turns to face those in the mine.
Leandron runs wide of the Golem, seeking to engage the Gargoyle. It, however, has its eyes set on the Aevakar, and immediately takes to the air to engage the archer. There, he quickly deals a blow that sends the Grey Ranger Scout tumbling to the ground, out of the fight.
Alfie, having consumed a potion allowing him to comprehend and speak the Builder tongue, attempts to convince the Golem to attack the Kal. For a time, the golem seems confused. It strikes at both the Gargoyle and Gandogar. However, when Alfie, holding aloft the Arcdevices found on the island, claims to be the successors to the Builders, the Golem turns its full attention against the human alchemist. “Intruder!” Purposefully it strides into the mine, striking again and again.
Seeing the dangers posed by the Gargoyle and the Golem, Hodor strides forward. “Don’t hurt my friends.”
However, before the Ogre can reach either adversary, Alfie miraculously manages to duck under the golems blow, grasp the crysarium, and, by placing a foot against its rump, pull the crysarium free. Mid turn, the golem freezes in pace, just inside the gate.
Eska and Leandron, meanwhile, have reached the tunnels, cutting down Ratzin and an archer in their path. As Leandron dispatches the last warrior, the Dregordian sees a minotaur round the corner. This bull of a beast wields a long pole arm, instantly recognized as a sacred Kayakor, used by the Dregordian people.
“Blasphemer!” Eska embraces her inner beast, rushing the minotaur in a mad fury. She embeds her claws into his neck, forcing the larger creature down under the weight of her fury.
Only the Gargoyle remains in the immediate vicinity. All other Kal-a-Nar had already moved up the tunnels and are beyond reach. Leandron and Eska spin back to where the combined strength of Hodor, Gandogar, Alfie, and Karrol is matched against the lone Gargoyle.
With overwhelming numbers and no ready means of escape, the time has come to end the threat. Again and again they attack before Gandogar finally cracks the stony hide, allowing the thick red ichor to spill out.
The Gargoyle collapses before the dwarf.
Leandron decapitates it to be certain it is dead.
However, Karrol is no longer able to reach either Rakepick or Karrol via his telephathy. Both are alive, but unconscious. Continually hampered by the close pursuit, the War Priestess and additional archers reached and overwhelmed them.
Eska and the others ask Leandron if a rescue is possible. He sees three possibilities. “If the Kal-a-Nar wish to kill them, then they are already dead. If they wish to barter them, they will come to us. If they wish to sacrifice them to Ceynara, they will most likely wait until the 13th Hour, when their power is greatest.”
With that in mind, the wounded are tended to. Zaro, again, survived his encounter with the Gargoyle. Most others are healed of their wounds and the Adepts recover their Essence.
Knowing that there will be a desperate battle, Leandron makes the following offer:
“There is no greater honor than to live, and if needs be, die, in the service of others. I invite you all to join Grayson’s Grey Rangers.”
Anton and Hodor, who have already expressed an interest, swear to the Oath, Code and Cause of the Rangers. Gandogar and Alfie also join the Grey Rangers.
The oath sworn to is as follows:
Oath, Code, and Cause
Upon joining the Rangers and passing initial training, a Ranger is expected to take the Oath, live by the Code, and never forget the Cause of the Rangers.
Oath of the Ranger
“I do hereby solemnly swear, in the sight of the Ascended, that I will uphold the Code and the Cause of the Rangers. I will take no action that would dishonor the Rangers, or bring unjust harm to those they protect and serve. I will follow all lawful and rightfully-given orders to the best of my ability, and I will never shirk my duty to my fellow Rangers, to the lands we serve, or to Life itself.”
The Code of the Rangers
Our First Mission is the protection of Innocents against those that would cause them harm, deprive them of that which is lawfully theirs, or infringe upon their natural rights as Living Beings.
We abide by the Laws and Policies of all Charter Sovereignties. We will respect the laws of all lands, save where those laws directly and egregiously violate our First Mission.
Our Second Mission is to strike against the Powers and Agents of Darkness and Flame. We will oppose them wherever they strike, and we will defend Shaintar against them wherever they may reside.
We will abide by the borders and sovereignty of any nation, state, province, or other political entity, save where such abidance directly and egregiously violates our First and Second Missions.
We will respect and adhere to the Chain of Command, and we will follow all orders given to the best of our ability. Only when the First or Second Missions are egregiously obstructed can we issue a Question of Authority, and we must be prepared to defend such a Question with our Lives.
The Cause of the Rangers
To provide protection and aid to those in need; to defend the good people of the land against enemies who would deprive them of Life, Possessions, and personal Freedom; and to uphold the Laws of the sovereign lands to which we are Chartered to defend and protect.
Eska feels that her path may lie elsewhere, so politely declines.
A watch is set on the tunnels.
Above ground, Rakepick and Reener recover consciousness. The familiar, but heavily accented voice of Samael the Builder they met days before, greets them and cautions them to remain still. Kal voices and footsteps can be heard about them. In the quiet times, he explains that the Gargoyle and the Kal found them. The other Builders were killed or sacrificed. Their golem was destroyed. He attempts to tend to their wounds, but if unsuccessful.
The recaptured Rakepick and Reener feign unconsciousness as the Kal-a-Nar lift them and carry them into the underground tunnels. Each prepares to slip his bonds if need be.
6 hours after the last battle, the watch hears footsteps. They stay well back and observe as the Kal-a-Nar turn the corner and approach. Under strict orders not to engage, they fall back and take cover behind the gate, leaving it just open.
Through the sliver of open gate, they watch as Kal-a-Nar, bearing armfuls of wood, march into the chamber before the gate, depositing the wood into a sizable pile. Reener, Rakepick and Samael are brought forward, underguard.
The War Priestess, brandishing a Blood Steel dagger, steps forward. She calls for the Brinchie, and Rakepick, held up between two Kal, is dragged before her.
“Grey Rangers! I am Dorgan ki Espen, War Priestess of Ceynara. Throw down your weapons and submit to you fate as slaves in the Mighty Emperor’s realm, or you will burn in the fires of Ceynara’s wrath!”
Gandogar kicks the gate open and answers the challenge with a crossbow bolt. The Kal are prepared for such a response. The bolt goes wide and the Kal-a-Nar archers return fire.
As the newly sworn rangers stream forth, the War Priestess grabs Rakepick by the throat, locking eyes with him. “Whom the emperor has made a slave, let no man seek to free.” She screams and incantation and raises the dagger high.
Reener slips his bonds.
Alfie, takes out the crysarium crystal and rushes toward the second Golem. He locks the crystal in place and calls to Samael.
Leandron rushes toward Rakepick. The Brinchie bends his feet back to his bound hands and manages to shred the ropes with his sharp claws, but is unable to break free from those who hold him.
The War Priestess plunges the dagger down, embedding it within the Brinchies chest. Rakepick feels cold, as if his very being were being pulled into the dagger. He breaks away, but a second strike leaves him bleeding out as the War Priestess draws in his power. Waves of heat build around her, the dagger is wreathed in flame. As Leandron and Alfie close in, she floats into the air, sending bolts of flame at all who oppose her.
Reener pulls the dagger from the belt of a Ratzin, places his back against the wall, and, in a feat of agility and strength, loops his bound feet around the neck of an attacking Ratzin and somersaults the hapless creature into the fire.
The activated Golem immediately responds to Samael’s calls for help. It pushes a Kal Warrior into the flames as it strides to the Builder, smashing the guard who held him.
Eska takes several arrows and retreats behind the gate. Karrol’s bolts strike down the Ratzin rushing the gate, but is too exhausted to offer any healing to his fellow adept. Instead, he instructs Anton to pull a potion from his pack. This recovers Eska somewhat.
Leandron drops a sword and attempts to press a salve onto Rakepick’s bleeding wounds. Pressed by the War Priestess, he is unsuccessful.
Cut off from the bleeding Rakepick by too many Kal Warrior, Alfie courageously chooses to rush through the fire to administer a Potion of Healing. His bravery saves the Brinchie’s life.
Slowly, the Kal forces are whittled down, but the heroes are hard pressed, taking wounds.
The War Priestess grows more powerful. She flies higher. The fires follow her, dancing around her robes and armor, but burning nothing. A wave of flame explodes down from her, catching friend and foe alike. Diving down, she strikes at Leandron.
A well placed arrow from Zaro strikes her down, but too much power has been pulled into her being. She erupts in an explosion of flame and ash, leaving only the Blood Steel Dagger to fall. The blast extinguishes the remnants of the fire, and heavily damages the active golem.
The last Kal Warrior and Ratzin are dealt with, but not before a lucky strike downs Eska, damaging her arm.
Alfie, again, serves as the healer through his potions and skills.
Karrol collapses, exhausted, but is rallied by Leandron. “There is no rest. We must make sure there are no more.” He leads the Adept and Gandogar up the tunnel to ensure that the Kal camp is emptied.
Before he leaves, he cautions Zaro and Anton that the Builder must not be allowed to leave. He will stay with the Rangers.
Samael is extremely pleased to be within the Builder Mine. He gazes upon the gates and the city with awe. He admires the arclance held by Anton and discusses the builder language with Eska.
When Leandron returns, bearing word that the Kal Camp is empty and carrying Rakepick’s swords, he calls everyone together. There he distributes orders. He informs Samael and all the others that the Builder will not be permitted to return to Camon. Such a valuable mine will not be allowed to serve as a source of conflict. The Builder will be well treated, but will be under the guard of the Grey Rangers until they can bring him to Krythos.
Samael seems to have anticipated the turn. He expresses gratitude that the Grey Rangers do not act as the Kal-a-Nar.
Leandron states that the group will remain in the underground city to recover their health and energy. They will make the journey south out of the mountains before heading West for Bearheart.
Finally, Leandron states that they will be collapsing the gates, as diagramed by Dourin Limestone, before they leave. This draws loud protests from Samael, and a bitter silence from Karrol. However, Leandron’s decision is final. The resource is too valuable to leave alone.
Eska consoles the Builder, telling him that this is not a permanent thing. The city will remain safe behind the collapse. Additionally, on Reener’s suggestion, they disguise the approach through the crack and ventilation shaft, knowing that it can be found again if needed.
The group remains in the city 10 days, hunting, foraging, replenishing their supplies of potions, attempting to learn the Builder tongue, working with the arc devices, preparing the demolition, forging new materials, studying the history of the unique kayakor carried by the Minotaur, and, generally, stuffing every available carrying pouch with crysarium.
Rakepick, who picked up the Blood Steel Dagger, consults with Leandron. Since being struck by the weapon, the Brinchie has felt colder. He worries that a part of him is lost within the weapon. Leandron referrs him to Karrol.
The Adept warns Rakepick that Blood Steel is a horrible material, crafted with the sacrifice of sentient beings. It is an evil thing. After some study, he confirms that the weapon has been bound to the Brinchie in a way, but assures him that he is in no danger. However, when the weapon is used, it will affect Rakepick. He demonstrates by cutting the palm of his hand with the blade. Immediately, Rakepick feels the same cut as if it were across his palm. Rakepick wants to hold onto the dagger, to ensure that it is never used, but Karrol recommends that he hold onto it, as, with much study, he expects to be able to safely break the connection. Rakepick agrees.
Finally, on the 23rd day of Raining Leaves, they are ready to depart. With a cacophony of falling boulders and billowing dust, the collapse is triggered and the Grey Rangers depart for Defiance.