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the alley. The bottle smashed into tiny pieces that fell to the ground where they lay on buy ghd straighteners the snow like jewels upon a white dress. To Sumi’s dismay the woman turned in their direction and started stumbling down the alley, no doubt headed for a tavern they had passed earlier. As she passed Lara and Sumi, the woman held the lantern high and her eyes scanned their faces. She stopped and stared as the pair hurried past. Sumi saw the woman’s eyes drop towards the ground where her eyes focused upon the long winding trail that Lara’s tail carved in the snow. ‘You stinking witch!’ she shrieked. Lara spun around. ‘I lost a husband and two sons in the mines,’ the woman spat. ‘One witch won’t balance the scales but it’ll make me feel a little better.’ She launched herself at Lara and tackled the Moraen around the waist. Both women fell to the dirty snow piled up against th ghd products e wall of the dark alley. The woman managed to use her weight to her advantage and twisted around so she sat on Lara’s stomach. She pounded down upon Lara’s face with brick-shaped fists with no sign of stopping. Sumi grabbed the woman by her dirty yellow hair and yanked her head back hard. The woman grunted at Sumi for a moment before returning her focus to Lara who she ghd hair straighteners best price proceeded to pummel. ‘Filthy traitorous witch! I’ll kill you!’ Sumi slammed the palm of her hand against the back of the woman’s neck knocking her out immediately. ‘Somehow,’ she said as she dragged the woman into the darkest part of the alley, ‘somehow I don’t think you’re welcome in Nilfheim.’ Although Lara had lost count of the extraordinary things she had done since leaving the Bregon Woods on the back of a flying lobbsle, there was little doubt that jumping into Strom Mir with nothing but a thin piece of silk between her and dying was one of the most terrifying. She was astounded to learn t ghd sale shop hat many miners started every working day in this way. Sumi, who told her this, did not mention that hundreds of miners who had died when their chutes failed to open on the way down. AKIN TO PITY 143 After the battle with the Kaggen months before, the breach in the floor of Room 391 had lain silent and undisturbed under countless tonnes of frozen rubble. The Kaggen’s inadvertent destruction of the room seemed enough to keep the Ghul at bay. And then, on the day Lokasenna Hagen left Nilfheim bound for the Assembly of Nations in Cessair, a scratching sound was heard from beneath the fallen stone and ice. For ten days the sounds continued, never abating, always growing louder. Then on the third day the loose rubble on top of the mound blocking the breach started quivering as if something underneath was about to emerge. And then it stopped. All sound. All movement. Gangs of miners were brought down to Room 391 and two hundred members of Nilfheim’s shock troops stood in one line from cavern wall to cavern wall, all facing the buried entrance to the Endless, waiting. There were over three hundred Sessymirians at the base of Strom Mir when the chaos began. The mound of rock and ice imploded as it was ripped away from underneath and then from the darkness beyond came the Kobolds. Though half the size of the Sessymirians guarding the breach, the Kobolds were more than a match for the shock troops. The ferocity of their onslaught was extraordinary. The Kobolds fought without fear. Many times in the attack, a Kobold would drop his guard, enticing an opponent into attack, just to give another Kobold an advantage. Their attack was beautifully coordinated. Deep within the Endless, hundreds of leagues away, Succellos controlled the Kobolds like a monstrous puppeteer. She allowed her puppets just enough mental liberty to express themselves in the violent show, but not enough to question their actions. Over the weeks that followed, countless Ghul poured through the breach and from the shafts above came every able-bodied Sessymirian to hold back the flood. At first – despite the relentlessness of the Kobolds and Ghul – the Sessymirians had the upper hand. They had discovered the Ghul’s susceptibility to fire and worked hard to exploit this weakness. But fires and mines did not mix and the Sessymirians were limited in how many blazes they could light in a place comprised of more ice than metal. Nilfheim’s small cadre of bowmen had been brought down to fire volleys of arrows dipped in oil and set alight. This tactic stymied the Ghul’s attempts to infiltrate the mines, but it was – at best – a temporary solution. Wooden ghd hair straighteners arrows were in short supply in Nilfheim; the Sessymirians could not hope to continue this defence for much longer. In contrast, the Ghul seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of bone shafts that their archers used to whittle away the Sessymirian troops. 144 CALIBAN’S END It looked bleak for the people of Strom Mir. Whilst the Sessymirians had no qualms about killing the Kobolds they were confused about the presence of a new enemy – the Pryderi. Some of the miners had seen Moraens before, but most had only heard of them in stories. At first, the sight of the women with their long writhing tales and flowing skirts of silk intrigued the local Sessymirians who held their fire as the coven of witches made their way up into the shattered remains of Room 391. This cessation of hostilities did not last long. When all the witches had assembled ami pink ghd dst the frozen rubble of the cavern, accompanied by a platoon of Ghul infantry, they launched a mystical broadside that killed at least fifty Sessymirians in the space of a few seconds. Spells of all descriptions were hurled across the cavern resulting in an array of injuries, deformities and death that had never been witnessed before. The remaining Sessymirians fled abandoning Room 391 to Caliban’s forces. The miners made their way down long empty passageways until they arrived at a vast cavern known as Room 333 which was just over half a league from the breach. Here they had assembled a huge barricade that was one hundred yards across and fifty yards high – the last line of defence. If the Ghul, Kobolds and Pryderi got past the barricade, the only thing that separated them from the city of Nilfheim above was Strom Mir’s entry shaft. Some Sessymirians had argued that the mine should be abandoned. They argued that the platform that brought the miners to the surface should be raised to the surface so that Caliban’s army could be denied access to the city, but this idea was quickly dismissed for two reasons – firstly, the miners were fiercely proud and did not want to hand the ice colliery over to the invaders without a fight; secondly, no-one really believed that something as simple as a mine shaft would be enough to halt the progress of the Ghul. And so the barricade was built across Room 333. The cavern was easily accessed from numerous sections of the mine which meant it provided numerous escape routes should the barricade fall. It was also one of the most established areas of the mine. Beams of iron crisscrossed the ceiling and all of the walls were plated with reinforced steel which meant the Sessymirians could light fires in the room without fear of melting the cavern around them. The area was well-ventilated which would vent the plumes of smoke that would inevitably rise out of the fires the miners would light to keep the Ghul at bay. Since the departure of Lokasenna Hagen, Vila Helstrom had taken command of Strom Mir. It was he who had decided that Room 333 would be the most suitable place to stand their ground against the Ghul. AKIN TO PITY 145 He did not assume the title of Foreman. The miners simply addressed him as Captain and this suited him. Behind his back many of Strom Mir’s workers still referred to him ghd sale as the Keeler – the distinctive scars running across his face where his flesh had been gouged by one of the Keelii made it difficult to ignore Helstrom’s colourful past. Despite their horrendous casualties over recent days, he had proven to be an excellent leader to those who believed in taking a stand against Caliban’s troops. He had put out the call for every piece of flammable material that could be found in Nilfheim to be lowered down into the mine and added to the barricade. He had also arranged for vats of leviatha oil to be brought to Room 333. As the last of the miners retreated behi ghd sale online nd the barricade, the Keeler ordered massive steel nets be strung up across the room between the barricade and the tunnel entrance that led to the breach. The nets were made of a thick steel mesh that could support the weight of tonnes of Cold. It would take the Ghul some time to break through them. The Keeler was not sure whether they would pose a problem for the Pryderi. ‘When the enemy comes in here, take down the witches first!’ he yelled to his troops from his position high up on the barricade. Caliban’s forces had not yet arrived in the cavern but the Keeler could hear their approach reverberating down ghd hair straighteners best price the tunnel at the far end of the room where the steel nets had been pink ghd placed. ‘The nets should create a choke point, but do not concentrate your fire upon the Ghul. See a witch, kill a witch.’ ‘See a witch, kill a witch!’ the Sessymirians shouted back with chilling fervour. ‘We can take down the Ghul with fire, but the witches might not be so easy to kill.’ The Keeler had been to Bregon as a child and he remembered the Pryderi as being a timid race whose magick was similarly unimpressive but what he had witnessed back at the breach was a show of mystical power beyond anything he could have imagined. Something had changed. The witches had become powerful and were willing to use that power in the most uncompromising fashion. He was surprised at their preparedness to kill, but in the back of his mind he knew that the Sessymirians’ treatment of the Moraens gave the witches no reason to consider the people of Nilfheim as allies. ‘Captain, the bins are in place,’ reported a young miner by the name of Lars who had climbed the barricade to join Helstrom. He 146 CALIBAN’S END pointed at two massive iron containers that had been raised on winches and hauled across the ceiling so that they hung above the barricade. ‘Yes. I see,’ the Keeler replied looking up at the rectangular containers high above his head. Each bin was tethered to thick iron chains that ran back across the ceiling through a pulley system that was controlled by a panel of levers near one of the entrances to the room. ‘Are the bins full?’ ‘Yes Captain. Every drum of oil we could find has been poured into them.’ ‘Do not tip them till I give the word. Do you understand Lars?’ ‘Yes Captain,’ the youth responded. He quickly clambered his way back down the barricade and took his position by the levers. The Keeler cast his eyes across the barricade with a sense of pride. Everything was in place. The barricade itself was lined with anyone who had access to a bow, slingshot or bola. Earlier, a number of zealous miners had also taken their place atop the barricade armed with lumps of Blue Cold. Though Helstrom was impressed with their desire to obliterate the enemy, he had to ask them to hand over the volatile Cold before they brought the entire mine down around their ears. The Keeler looked behind hi ghd straighteners m at the base of the barricade where hundreds of Sessymirians had gathered armed with axes, swords and clubs. These men and women could not see over the barricade to the tunnel from which would spill Caliban’s army, so they waited in silence, preparing their minds for the battle to come. Behind these brave, desperate people were the hulking shapes of five catapults that had been ripped from the city’s battlements where they had performed nothing more than an ornamental role for the past fifty years. Each catapult had been lowered down the man shaft and trundled into the massive cavern where they had built the barricade. Many Sessymirians had laboured through the night to recalibrate the catapults so they shot over the barricade but not into the roof or walls of the cavern. Each catapult was armed with blocks of stone so heavy, it had taken almost thirty men to load them. The Keeler ghd pure scanned the room for possible weaknesses in the defence and finding none, he turned to face the tunnel at the far end of the room. ’We’re ready,’ he said to himself, and for a short time, he almost believed it. They did not have to wait long for the enemy to arrive. The Ghul entered first and immediately set about trying to dismantle the steel net that covered the tunnel entrance like a sieve. Some Ghul tried to squeeze AKIN TO PITY 147 themselves through the net but quickly found themselves caught in the tight mesh. The Ghul were followed by the Kobolds who wasted no time in trying to work their way under the steel net. The Sessymirians had fixed the mesh to the floor of the cavern with long iron bolts. The Kobolds set about digging up these bolts and worked with such industry that it would not be long before the net was little more than a decorative hanging. Behind the Kobolds massed the Pryderi. The Keeler couldn’t count the number of witches in the tunnel but he knew it was enough to completely wipe out the remaining miners if they were permitted to get closer. ‘Shoot the witches!’ The Keeler didn’t have to give the command a second time. The cavern was filled with projectiles being fired into the tunnel on the other side of the mesh. He punched the air in satisfaction as a number of witches dropped to the frozen floor of the tunnel with arrows and knives in their scaly flesh, but his euphoria was short-lived. Within seconds, the projectiles started bouncing off an invisible barrier the witches erected. The response was swift. From the mouth of the tunnel burst a colourful array of retaliatory spells. Most of these splashed against the barricade, but a number found their targets. The Keeler heard agonised screams shoot out from the lips of his comrades as they were hit by all manner of offensive magick. To his left, an old miner’s head burst open like a pok pok fruit. To his right, a young boy shrieked as his skin was ripped from his body. The Keeler quickly gave the signal for his troops to drop down behind the barricade. The whoosh and thud of five catapults successively launching in the confines of the room filled the air. The first four

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