The following day in the dirty coastal port of Mhowe another battle was
just about to begin. News had reached the Gorgon of the
success in Osternord late the previous night, soon after the fall of the
town of Osternord and he had then sent word, by a magical
messenger to the leaders of his army in the Iron Hills. They were to
attack at dawn, capture the entire kingdom and then march on
Rohrmarch from the west.

Things however did not seem to be going all the Gorgon's way here
though. The Human Mercenaries who worked for the Gorgon,
partially out fear, but mostly for greed had begun their attack soon
after dawn, sweeping through the quiet streets of Mhowe on
their mounts eliminating all resistance. The trouble was though that so
far they had encountered no resistance, and there had been
no sign of their allies, the Dwarven units of Mur-Kilad.

The soldiers milled about in the town square looking for something to
fight, anything to fight. It was then that a voice called to them
from the far end of the square. The Mercenary leaders turned their
mounts around and looked in confusion at the small group
gathered there. "Surrender now and you will not be harmed," the voice
called again.

A tall Human knight stood calmly at the side of hunched, cloaked figure,
and an old Dwarf, dressed in the robes of a priest of
Moradin. All stood quietly now at the end of the square with no sign of
any other being in range. The Mercenary leader hesitated
only for a moment before ordering his men forward to attack.

He barely made it half way down the square however before the twang of
crossbows sounded all around him. From the shadows of
the walls of nearby shops stepped Dwarven soldiers carrying heavy
crossbows. Bending down on one knee they let lose their
weapons into the gathered Mercenaries. The heavy, iron-tipped bolts
smashed through armour, flesh and bone kill many and throwing
rest of the Mercenaries into confusion.

Nearly half fell in the first attack, and then as the others spun about
to charge the Dwarven archers more Dwarves suddenly
appeared, charging down the streets and into the fray. These soldiers
were dressed in heavy plate armour and carried swords and
axes. Within the space of three minutes the rest of the Mercenaries lay
dead or dying on the cobblestones of the market square,
with only a couple of minor injuries to the Dwarven side.

At the end of the square the three who had designed the ambush turned
from the scene of the battle and began the walk back to the
tower, discussing their plans as they walked.

"As I said Lord Rockhammer your Dwarves may have the mountain provinces
to live in, while I will remain here in Mhowe," said
El-Hadid. "I have no desire to live in the mountains, I much prefer the
sea air myself. As long as a fair tax is paid I will not trouble
your Dwarves."

"And the temples My Lord," asked the priest. "Will I be permitted to
build temples in your lands, the Dwarven people must be able to
worship Moradin. They need his wisdom to survive."

"Of course, anywhere your people settle they will be allowed freedom of
worship. Of course freedom of worship means just that,
they will also be permitted to worship whoever or whatever they choose,
and if they do not choose Moradin then you must accept

"Very well Lord El-Hadid," said Ruarch Rockhammer. "I doubt that they
will choose any other though."

"I also doubt this, but I will not allow conflict of any sort in my

"I understand entirely, and will do all I can to ensure that this
doesn't occur."

"Good, now you had best be off to organise the evacuation of Mur-Kilad.
I still don't know how you are going to sneak so many past
the good King of Baruk-Azhik though."

"Careful planning my Lord," answer the Dwarf. "I have ensured that those
who think they way I do will be on duty during the times
the Mur-Kilad Dwarves are moving through Baruk-Azhik. King Graybeard
will be angry when he eventually learn of it, but he will
come around when he realises that our kin had indeed left the influence
of the Gorgon. Then he will celebrate with the rest of us. I
am also sending a messenger to the Overthane to request that he consider
a treat with those Dwarves of Mur-Kilad who wish to
break free from the Gorgon's hold. Many of the Thanes support me,
although I have yet to hear from Thane Wulfram Wainier. With
both the Thanes and the Temple supporting the idea he will have no
choice but to accept the treaty proposal."

"I will look forward to your success then," said the Awnshegh, his clock
covering the twisted smile on his face. "Now go, and
organise. I will meet you later to discuss the plans we need to make."

The Dwarven priest bowed slightly and rushed off to organise the
evacuation with the soldiers from Mur-Kilad. To him this was a
fine day as finally his dreams had been realised and the people of
Mur-Kilad had been freed. While their mines and cities in the
Gorgon's lands would be lost they would once more fight for the cause of
good. Cities could be rebuilt, and mines dug beneath the
mountains that made up the Iron Peaks, or the Iron Hills as they were
known in Mhowe. Then the Dwarven race would be stronger
than ever and no longer would his people need to bow down to an Awnshegh
master. Ruarch rubbed his callused hands together at
the thoughts that were running though his head and he increased his
pace, he had much to plan.

Planning also were El-Hadid and his servant Lord Nekrul Adaere. This
first battle had gone their way, but they did not doubt that
the Gorgon would be most angry when he heard what had happened and more
of his soldiers would be sent to capture the Iron Hills.
They had won a battle this day, but the war would not be over until the
Gorgon had been driven back from Rohrmarch and both it
and the Iron Hills were secure.

Danita Kusor, otherwise known as the Chimaera awoke from her long rest
later that day, shortly before nightfall. She was still a
little sore from the battles of recent weeks, but thanks to the healing
ointment of the dead Dwarven priest her visible wounds were
gone. With her own regeneration abilities she would have recovered soon
enough from the wounds, but the ointment helped to ease
the pain and had allowed her to sleep peacefully for the first time in
many years.

She still felt a little weak from her near death at the hands of the
Flayer of Minds when he had conquered her lands, but that close
call had actually had a healing effect on her. For many years her mind
had been clouded by an illusion of power and madness, and
she had begun to lose herself to the creature that dwelt within her. For
long periods of time she had even lost control of her own
body, becoming a creature of chaos and destruction with little thought
to her true feelings. Now, after her encounter with the
powerful Flayer she had grown wary, cautious in the approach of danger
and somehow because of this had managed to gain more
control over her mind than she had possessed in many years.

The madness was still there, and she still became the Chimaera when she
grew angry, despite her wishes. Now however she had more
control over what she did as the Chimaera and could cast spells and use
wands against her enemies. Before when there had been
Danita and the Chimaera, two separate creatures there was now instead
just the one creature that was both Danita and the Chimaera
in one. She was in control in both her forms now and could control her
rages if she wished. While others thought that she was dead,
and the Flayer thought that she was weakened she had in fact grown
stronger than ever before.

Now, for the first time in decades, she had also begun to grow aware of
her surroundings once more and began to desire things that
had once been hers. So when Danita awoke late in the afternoon her mind
focused on the bloody mess that filled the room and she
remembered the past when she had been a powerful sorceress who had lived
in luxury and comfort. She began to wish once more
for those things she had lost. When she looked at her room she thought
of the changes she could make, to improve her home. After all
it would not do for a powerful immortal such as her to live in such

When the Chimaera had raged across the land over the past thirty years
Danita had been pushed further and further back into the
back of the monsters mind. The beast she had become thought nothing of
the condition of its lair, and never repaired the damage
that had been done. Torn curtains were never replaced, floor never
cleaned and the smashed laboratory equipment on the floor
below was never replaced. Now, with Danita once more back into control
she wanted what she had once had and began to think of
improvements to be made.

Lost in these thoughts Danita lay on her blood spattered bed as day
slowly turned towards night and it was not until darkness was
beginning to fall across the land that she returned from the realm of
her dreams and dragged herself out of her bed. She was still
dressed only in an ancient, tattered gown, covered with the dried blood
of her enemies. Her ragged black hair was matted with
blood and hung down to her waist, badly in need of cutting or at the
very least washing.

Outside night was falling, so Danita called on long dormant magical
knowledge and summoned a globe of light that filled the room
and showed her the full extent of the damage the recent battles had
caused. Although no bodies remain inside the room, she had
always been careful to remove them, the bedroom still looked as though
it had been the sight of a major war. The bed itself was
intact, but large amounts of blood, both Danita's and her attackers, had
been split across it, and the floor looked even worse. It
seemed as though not a single area of the room, not even one corner, had
been spared.

The half-elf sighed and thought of how long it would take to clean up
the mess that remained. She was just preparing to begin when
she remembered something and rushed out of the room and up to her former
study on the floor above. The stench of the dead filled
her senses as she entered the room where the most recent battle had been
fought and looking around still saw the remains of several
Dwarven soldiers that she had killed, as well as the shattered chest of
gold, its contents spilt across the floor. Her memories of the
previous nights days fighting flooded back, but she ignored them for now
and looked for the item she sought.

She soon spotted the book sitting on a desk on the other side of the
room where had been placed by the Dwarven leader before the
battle. She rushed over to check that it was still intact and heaved a
sigh of relief when the only damage she could see was a few
spots of blood splattered across its surface. Hugging the massive book
closely to her chest she laughed happily at the relief that her
book of spells was still intact, unlike so many of her other

Lugging the heavy tome under one arm she went back down the stairs to
the bedroom, which was still lit up by her magical light.
Pausing only to pull a packet of died food from the dead Dwarven
priest's backpack she sat down on the bed, crossed her legs
beneath her and began to read.

Memories came flooding back of her life before she had become the rage
filled monster that was the Chimaera. She had then been a
powerful wizard, and cast spells to fight her enemies instead of tearing
them apart with her claws. In the century or so since then
she had spent little time with her magic but the memories were still
there and as she scanned the pages she soon picked up long
forgotten skills once more.

Finding a spell that would suit her needs she memorised the words and
phrases on the page, taking great care as she did not want to
make a mistake after so many years. It was one of the first cantrips she
had ever learned, and probably the one most apprentices
first learned from their masters. Once she was sure that she had
successfully memorised the spell she cast it, swirling her hand in a
circular motion and letting her breath out with a rushing sound.

To her amazement the simple spell worked as well as she remembered and
it washed away the blood and dirt that had been built up
over the years in the room. Laughing at the ease the magic had achieved
what she would thought would take her hours she returned
to the spell book to rememorise the spell. Then casting it again and
again she quickly cleaned her tower, taking the time to toss the
dead bodies, and part of bodies outside into the snow for any scavengers
that might come across them. Soon the tower was clean
of the blood that had stained its ancient stonework and Danita sat down
in her study pleased with her efforts.

She then looked down at her body and noticing that although her ragged
gown was clean of bloodstains she had been unable to
remove the blood that covered her. She tried to wipe it off with her
hand, but found that although the blood would flake off easily
enough she was still dirty and the smell of the blood was becoming quite
bad. She opened the spell book again and began to look for
something that might assist her.

She soon found another minor spell that could aid her and went down the
stairs to the large underground area of tunnels and rooms.
While her tower rose several floors above the surface there were also
many rooms beneath the surface of the ground. In on of them
she found an old copper tub that she soon dragged up the stairs and
filled with snow. Then casting the minor cantrip that she had
memorised she heated the snow in the tub and turned it into a bath
filled with steaming hot water. She pulled off her torn gown and
eased herself down into the heated water to wash away the dirt that had
gathered on her body in the past few days.

Outside in the chilly night the clouds gather high above began to drop
their nightly load of snow, and a fresh layer of perfect white
snowflakes began to fall, covering the bodies of the dead Dwarves that
lay outside. Danita ignored this though, enjoying the first
hot bath she had experienced in many long years. The warmth of the water
lulled her into sleep once more, as the strain of casting
magic again after so many years took its toll.

The snow continued to fall for another two hours, before easing as the
Avani's light rose once more in the east, throwing a beam of
sunlight across the field of perfect white that now surrounded Danita's
tower. The light from the early morning woke Danita from
her slumber and she hauled herself out of the now cold bath water to
stand shivering slightly in the chilly breeze that blew through
large cracks in the tower wall.

Wrapping her arms around her body she ran back up the now clean stairs
to her study two floors above, her tattered gown in her
hands. Then she stood naked, shivering at the cold as she scanned the
tome for another spell that she had noticed before casting it
to dry her body. Then dry, although still cold, she put her gown back on
and began looking around for something warm to wear.

As the Chimaera she had never cared much for warmth as the thick fur
that covered her body had protected her from the cold. Now
in her half-Elven form she was again susceptible to the harsh cold of
winter in the mountains of Baruk-Azhik. Magic would help her
but she still needed clothes. Searching the entire tower, and the
dungeons below Danita was unable to find more than a few scraps
of fur and cloth, which she managed to sew together with string she had
found. Thinking back to her past she remembered that she
had torn up most of her possessions, keeping only a single gown, her
spell book and a few magical items.

Now she wanted more. Danita wanted clothes and other luxuries again, so
gathering up a small collection of gold coins from the piles
that had spilt out across the floor from the ruined chest she shoved
them into a pouch she had found in the dead priest's pack. The
pouch had contain herbs of some kind, but she had tossed them out the
open window the bedroom, letting them fly away with the
wind. With a full pouch of gold and a mind full of memorised magic once
more she stepped out of the tower and allowed her form to
change into that of the Chimaera. With a powerful beat of her
dragon-like wings and a mighty roar she flew off towards the east,
towards the human nation of Coeranys.

- --
Ian Hoskins

ICQ: 2938300