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And Not to Yield

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More scouting reports begin to come in, as the flood of refugees to Arx intensifies. Hundreds of smaller domains have begun to marshal their forces, readying to rally to the banners of their highlords whether in defense of of the cities of the Great Houses or to make to Arx, but there's been a distinct lack of communication from the more distant domains. As more refugees arrive, it becomes quickly apparent why- most outlaying domains are simply gone. Attempts at defense were overwhelmed and completely destroyed. In most places, not even ruins remain and refugees attempting escape have been run down.

The sheer size and scope of the horde is overwhelming. It's possible powerful stands at strategic points can slow the march upon Arx, buying refugees time to evade the horde and make it to Arx. It's also possible that the horde will overwhelm and utterly crush everything in its way, allowing it to defeat the forces the Compact in detail before it falls upon a weakened Arx like a hammerblow. Different lords argue about what is the better choice.

Though others are just in denial. Some traditionalists seem happy to pretend nothing at all is the matter, writing white journals about trivial complaints about neo nobles or prodigals, even as word arrives that their domains have been completely annihilated and their houses functionally no longer exist. The shrines, the Great Cathedral of Arx, the Great Archive are all swarmed and overcrowded by the faithful praying for answers, and writing. Some have no hope at all, while others march for doomed defenses of minor domains, baronies that cannot hope to even slow the advance.

For centuries, the Compact believed magic didn't exist, and demons were simply stories. They saw the Reckoning as allegorical. That time is past, and a second Reckoning has come for the world.

Sungreet has been completely destroyed. There are not many survivors, but the handful that managed to slip away spoke of hordes of flying demons that descended upon the domain of House Helianthus, while thousands of boats of shards that may have once been Abandoned assaulted the walls of the city. Duke Trevor Helianthus attempted to lead a defense, but the defenders were swiftly overwhelmed, and its fleet sunk in the Mourning Sea.

Other outlaying domains have fallen as well. The far northern holdings of Bonespire and Clearlake Hold were evacuated of civilians, and then have used avalanches, traps and scorched earth to badly slow the progress of the hordes inside the Everwinter. Passes and bridges have been collapsed, and the winter snows have turned against the attackers, buying more time before they reach Farhaven, but still they come.

In the west, Westrock Reach has been overwhelmed and swallowed up by attackers, who are sweeping steadily across the Eventide on a path towards Sanctum, as well as through the forests. Evacuations are proceeding, as more and more of the Oathlands mass at Sanctum to prepare for battle.

Countess Ember Redreef was heard to be leading the defense of Redreef Shores, but there's very confused reports near from the time of when the horde would have made landfall near Redreef Shores. All along the coasts of the Compact, from the far north, along the coasts of Arx, the Lycene sea, the Saffron, and the Eventide Vast, the water recedes. The water level drops a good 10 feet at least, drifting out like a sudden pull of the tide. Most fishermen that still haven't evacuated think it can only be the sign of an incoming tidal wave, but no such wave lands along the shores of Arvum.

Redreef Shores is reported lost, but something definitely slowed the progress of the horde across the Mourning Sea.

For just a moment, the city of Arx shakes. A small earthquake isn't unheard of, but in these uncertain times it causes more than a few to be concerned.
The legions of Azazel were delayed marching across the Everwinter. Avalanches, destroyed passes, sabotage, and harrying attacks tried to bleed the forces every step of the way. But still they came on, killing everything that could not escape. More domains have fallen. Some evacuated, some with bitter last stands, but fall they have. And now the horde comes to Farhaven. The walls of Farhaven have stood for a thousand years, built after the harrowing of the first Reckoning. And defenders lining the walls see the slow tide that marches south along the horizon. And ending sea of dark creatures. Mostly shards, twisted humans empowered by the abyss, many wearing armor and carrying arms from their lives, however ill suited they are to them. But not only shards.

Tens of thousands of monstrosities from shardhavens are here. Demons among them, and the air is black with winged creatures. On the ground, the standards bearing the fanged mouth of Azazel wave in the breeze, and the mouth on the banners move.

There's no subtlety in the approach. A slow beat of drums, a low howl of the demonic horde that becomes louder by the moment as they creep closer and closer. They mean to storm Farhaven.

There's a lack of good news in the Compact currently. Particularly not in the horror stories told by refugees fleeing by the thousands into Arx. Death has been the one constant companion on the roads from every part of Arvum. The Northlands were more grim than most- dangerous at the best of times, and the Knights of Solace desperately trying to keep some measure of safety for the refugees trying to reach Arx.

And Azazel's legion marched on.

It was grimly assumed by much of the peerage looking at war strategy that the refugees in the Northlands were a lost cause, and more than a few had counseled pulling back to Arx and cutting their losses. But House Redrain called its banners, and made a stand at Farhaven, fighting in the same manner that gave birth to House Redrain under Queen Valeria over a thousand years ago, facing a demonic horde once more.

And once more, it emerged victorious.

Farhaven still stands, and while the fight was costly, including the death of Redrain nobility such as Princess Kace Redrain, the Northlands held. The legion attacking Farhaven was decisively defeated, and driven back. While Azazel's forces are far from destroyed, and certain to regroup and continue their march south, Farhaven stands strong.

The refugees survive, and should Arx survive as well, future generations will tell of the Northlands and House Redrain, and how it does not yield.

There was some commotion in the Guardian Square earlier in the day as witnesses claim a woman grew scales and breathed actual fire at a training dummy. This would have been dismissed in the past as a trick or a hallucination but people know better now. No one was harmed at the very least which is good news in these trying times.
Bastion fell once, but never again. That's the view of the soldiers that have been gathering, and the rally from House Grayson is truly massive. It's one of the largest armies assembled in the Crownlands, and the navy is nearby along the river to support. The houses of the Crownlands have rallied to Grayson's banner, largely out of respect for the highlord, who has seen time and again at the battles for the Compact.

But they know what's coming. There's been harrying attacks on Azazel's legions through the crownlands. House Ashford trapped all of Ashford Keep, and many of its fabled trees of its tree city came crashing down on the legion. Roads were blocked, and houses surrendering their domains tried to bleed the legions as they pushed forward to Bastion. But they came on, and as the miles upon miles of the enemy creep into view, the Crownlands makes a stand to hold the enemy before they reach Arx, in the hope all the evacuated domains may have a chance to flee for the city.

Bastion was lost once. When it fell, the heart of many of the Crownlands fell with it. Grayson has been associated with the Compact since its founding, and while it has faltered many times during its history, losing its home was a hard loss to swallow. But it was rebuilt. And then the legions of Azazel began to sweep during the Crownlands, evacuations commenced, and tens of thousands of shav'arvani and citizens of the Compact alike fled towards Arx. Most had little hope of making it, as the legions marched inexorably on.

But the rebuilt Bastion stood in its path.

House Grayson decided to make a stand. It was one of the largest hosts they ever assembled, and the price was bitterly paid, but Azazel's legions were bloodied against the walls, driven back and routed. No doubt they will reassemble, and continue their march towards Arx. No doubt the forces will be bitter from the loss, and hungry to pay it back in blood.

But for the refugees seeking safety in Arx, it means everything. They survive. And while most of the Compact has looked at Grayson's house words in askance, more than a few feel it in their bones after that victory.

None Greater.

The legion marched of Azazel marched on Artshall. The domains have the southwestern Oathlands had suffered tremendously, with all the holdings west and south of House Laurent's demense surrendered or falling before Azazel's march. Thousands of refugees were fleeing, all too many lost as they fled for the safety of Arx, hoping after they passed Artshall that the powerful duchy would provide a bulwark to buy them time.

House Laurent did more than that.

In a fight that saw their duke riding on dragon back, the horde broke itself against the walls of Artshall. Reports speak of Lady Mabelle Laurent moving alone into the thick of enemy lines, and then a terrible explosion sundering their forces for a mile in all directions, resulting on a complete rout.

Azazel's legions will reassemble themselves, but much weaker for it. Artshall stands, bruised but unbroken. For tens of thousands of men, women and children on the road to Arx, they survive to see another dawn.

Sanctum has been rallying its forces since the news of the invasion began, with a mighty host responding to House Valardin calling its banners. The defenses of Sanctum have been steadily reinforced, and as domains have fallen, others have put a great deal of effort into bleeding the demonic horde. Oakhaven was turned into a trap that cost Azazel's legions, as have others that have slowed the approach as they could, buying time for Sanctum to be reinforced and refugees to try to flee for the safety of Arx.

But if Sanctum falls, so do most of the Oathlands. And all who travel on the roads would be doomed.

And so they have prepared. As the horde inches closer, there's a commotion on the walls, as scouts report that they believe the enemy may be making better time than normal. That there's movement in the treeline.

It turns out it IS the treeline. Hundreds of trees, their roots moving like feet, are marching forward. Treants called to battle. With them come hundreds of sylv'alfar, the scattered survivors who have lasted through the Elven War, avoided Legion's curse, and have returned to the world once more. They remember the Promise of Oakhaven, and an oath. Sanctum cannot be allowed to fight alone.

And so they come, forming up with their human allies one more time.

The Lyceum is not a place given to sentimentality at the best of times. The Hundred Cities are famed for their pragmatism, and so it was when Azazel legions began marching across the Lyceum, an overwhelming majority of the city-states simply evacuated to move for the strong point of Lenosia. The smart, pragmatic choice, and if the slow moving couldn't quite make it, well that's rather unfortunate. A handful of domains stood and fought, being swept under the tide, their domains razed and their people consumed by the march of Azazel's forces.

The duchy of Ostria did not flee.

It was a brutal battle, all told, but tales quickly come of the Duchess of Ostria fighting atop dragon back, personally holding the inner gate of the Middle Round of her city, while the Duke-Consort Hadrian Mazetti fought atop a sphynx that called Ostria home, unknown but to a precious few.

The battle was intense, and Ostria held, driving back Azazel's legions which had to regroup their battered forces and march around the city, leaving Ostria be. It held, but at great cost, with painful losses among the Ostrian soldiers- and of the Duke Hadrian himself, who gave his life to save the Sphynx of Ostria when victory was in their grasp.

As Ostria endures, they will remember.

There's a general panic throughout Arx, as a massive, massive draconic shape flies overhead, and then lands somewhere in the northwestern part of the city. But there's flames, and it seems no attack is underway.
Most of Arvum has fallen to the demonic invasion. The Mourning Isles has no domains remaining in human hands, having pulled all its forces to Arx, and the combined fleets of the Compact patrol of the Bay of Thrax and the Gray River. The ancestral homes of the other great houses remain, held at terrible cost, but aside from the great houses and the duchies of Ostria and Artshall, all the noble houses evacuated their homes and have concentrated their might at Arx. But for those small bulwarks of safety, Arvum falls.

The Compact burns.

And while harrying their approach as much as they can, with traps and brief attacks while fading before their strength, the demonic horde comes on, marching steadily towards Arx. Scouts report that as the forces near within a day of the city, a great many humans taken captivate by the forces of Azazel were ritually sacrificed, and great black mirrors appeared on the ground and air, and an unending torrent of demons emerged. Azazel bolstering his forces directly from the Abyss.

The combined armies of the Compact prepare in Arx. They do all they can as time ticks down.

As they wait for the end.

As the assault begins upon a castle outside of Arx proper, the sometimes called Castle of Yesterday, the grim survivors from the battle of the Seawatch Gate look up at what appears to be a woman with impeccable fashion sense flying through the air on a giant furry winged mouse. Absolutely no one knows what to make of this, but strange times. Strange times.
There's a brief moment of alarm throughout the city as a great number of winged shapes fly overhead, but they land peacefully throughout the Ward of House Grayson and the Shrine of the First Choice.

Griffins have arrived at Arx to help.

After the defeat earlier in the day and previous day, Azazel's forces withdrew to the beaches and coastline outside Arx. From a distance, it looks like a giant-sized mirror is being propped up on the beaches by a number of exceptionally tall giants, with several hundred shards around it performing blood sacrifices. A minute later, on the tense but otherwise untouched Sovrereign Bridge, a noble named Lord Derek Shavsbane trips while holding a mirror, and begins bleeding from his eyes. As a Mercy of Lagoma rushes over to help the man, he screams out, "But I was promised! I was PROMISED by Azazel!" And then drops the mirror onto the ground while falling over himself. The man body suddenly collapses downward with a crunching of bones, as if a great force was grinding him from above, and his blood washes over the mirror but just keeps expanding on the ground. A large span of the bridge is covered in reflective blood, and then on the bridge, thousands of shards start to move forward through the mirror, and crawl out on Sovereign Bridge.

There's a war scream of massive horned and winged demons with claymores flying out, huge hulking demons that immediately begin to slaughter the Iron Guard stationed on the bridge. Demons are pouring through.

On the 3rd day of the Siege of Arx, the attack does not arrive at once. The defenders expect a day that does not come. On the beaches outside of Arx, the brief flashes of lightning illuminate the endless horde arrayed outside the city, but they have not yet begun to march. Little by little, the banners are raised, and the mouths begin to extend from them. Tens of thousands of shards are gathered in a mile long circle with the banners face them, and Azazel begins to emerge. There's a feeding frenzy of Azazel's mouths chewing his own minions, and for some time after, nothing happens.

Then the fountain in the city center, already red from the falling blood rain, turns black as night.

And for the first time in a thousand years, a flight of dragons is seen off the shores of Arvum, as dozens of dragons and their riders are visible in the skies from Arx, demons in the air fleeing before the gigantic white dragon taking the lead.

The fires in the Bay of Thrax finally make landfall. The fires are lanterns from a thousand ships, as tens of thousands of soldiers make landfall, and an earthly howl is heard as not-quite-human soldiers prepare fall upon the demons. "TEAR THEM FUCKING APART!" Is a scream from a hulking half-wolf warchief. The Dragons of Cardia and Wolves of Nefer'khat have arrived.

Azazel's army breaks. The demons are fleeing in every direction, the sky clears, and the fountain of the City Center no longer is of blood. Outside of Arx, the army of a million shards is routed, much of it fleeing into the country side. A diminished threat, and none at all to Arx.

Azazel himself roars in frustration and then the heads sink into the ground. He's surely not defeated. But the attack is over.

Azazel's legion has been destroyed, with his near endless amount of shards and demons put to flight. Many in the city of Arx are celebrating a victory, though the most powerful allies among them can sense Azazel's presence and are ill at ease. The celebratory nature largely ends at the sun not rising and the land cast in endless darkness. Azazel is certainly up to something, but has not yet shown himself.
As quickly as it started, the many attacks around the city were defeated, with little bits of Azazel being quite literally bored to death in many cases, or more traditionally dealt with by being cut or crushed into tiny pieces. Unfortunately, a number did burrow down through the floor, as the Archfiend gathers himself up and prepares for one final battle.
In the skies above the world, cracks begin to appear among the stars, bits of light shining down through a broken sky. Around the world, every clock in existence shows at 11:59, and the hand slowly begins to move as Azazel slouches futher through the portal, the ghosts of the shining lands being driven back before him as he curls his massively expanding form towards the Wheel of Death and Rebirth. More and more tentacled tongues are lashing around individuals, pulling them towards a maw, as mouths cackle about his impending victory, wanting to kill more and more of them out of spite.

A puzzle box opens.

A child's toy, though a magical one, and inside the different compartments are thirteen old scraps of parchment, with thirteen secrets, detailing fond little trivia pieces of knowledge about different notables of Caer'alfar. As the box opens, the pieces of parchment all as one fade to dust.

Every maw of Azazel screams. He screams and screams, and is suddenly collapsing inward, the compounding upon himself, as he's dragged out of the Shining Lands and into a floating vortex above the puzzle box. The room howls in a sudden wind, so forceful it can knock one off their feet, and Azazel in the space of a moments is reduced to no more than something the size of a coin, which drops into the puzzle box that promptly snaps shut.

The breaks around the Shining Lands portal promptly reforms, righting itself, and the lights in the sky fade, the holes gone.

In the east, the sun is rising.

Azazel's gone. The Reckoning is over.

Heroes saved the world.

Crisis Updates

The trickle of refugees has gradually become a flood, as many notables of the Compact attempt to help the refugees deal with the odd 'Forgetfulness Plague' that has all too many of the refugees unable to recall the most simple of details, such as where they were from, and who they might even be. There's a tremendous amount of charitable outreach that helps the humanitarian side of the crisis not become catastrophic, with aid pouring in to help the refugees settle, but the success at dealing with the Forgetfulness is uneven. In the cases where it is successful, badly traumatized refugees speak of an immense horde sweeping over the Abandoned lands, driving them from their homes.

Early scouting reports are spotty, but the boundaries of the Compact are reporting something of an immense invasion, but there's contradictions in size and even direction. As the reports come in, a large force in the Compact is making preparations to sail for Eurus- to take advantage of the revolutions brewing in the Dune Kingdoms, and take back the cities from slavers.

Most of the Compact, rattled by the recent events with the Horned God, hope that the news of an invasion are overstated and await the good news to come.