The floor was scattered with nobles who had been trussed up, but not all of them were moving. I saw two of the fire pot orcs at the far end of the car and four orcs wearing rather serious, well cared for armor near the middle of the car. Focusing my mind, I was able to sprint through the car and reach the orcs before anyone else was able to react. As soon as I entered the car, however, I noticed two more fire pot orcs just inside the door I had just run through. All I could do was hope that my new companions were able to take care of them before they began lobbing their incendiary rounds at me.
I saw, from the corner of my eye, Cora dash through the room and dart behind an orc I was facing. Just as she swung, the train jerked and her swing went wide. I heard two loud reports from behind me and glanced back to see Ronan standing in the back of the car. The two fire pot orcs that had flanked the rear door were now sprawled across the floor, their unused fire pots still clutched in their hands. “Why are you down here,” I shouted over my shoulder.
“That thing with the tail you mentioned earlier? Yeah, it’s huge, so I came back down.”
As he yelled his reply to me, Keras came thundering past him and charged towards the orc to my left. Once again, as he neared the orc, the train lurched and his attack went wide. While I could not say for sure, it seemed like the train had picked up speed in the last few moments and now seemed to be travelling at a breakneck speed down the track. My only hope was that we would finish with the orcs in time to slow the train down in case the bridge was in fact out. Odelle stepped into the train car next and advanced on the orcs with her mace. She swung at the orc that Cora had attacked and landed a glancing blow. A sudden explosion at the other end of the car let me know that Francis had joined the battle as a cloud of noxious gas seethed into existence and enveloped the remaining two fire pot orcs and the fourth of the elite orcs. I heard more of the twisting words that Awnya had uttered before and suddenly a wall of light swept by me and hit the orcs. Unfortunately, the orcs were able to resist her and in the resulting confusion ending up switching places with me. I was still adjacent to two of the orcs, but the third orc had managed to end up face to face with the cleric. I only had time for a brief word of hope that her deity would protect her from his blade.
I swung at the two orcs in front of me, my hammer barely missing one but connecting solidly with the other. I knew that I had their attention now and that, as long as I kept pressure on them, they would be unable to escape from me. As I swung at the two in front of me, I focused my mind on the orc facing the cleric, driving a spike of psionic energy deep into his brain. If he attacked anyone other than me, he would feel any damage he dealt as acutely as the person he hit. The orcs were finally able to recover from our sudden appearance in the room and began to lay into us with their falchions. The orc facing Awnya spun in place and struck Keras. Both Keras and the orc recoiled slightly from the blow, but as the orc reset his blade I could see a deadly iridescent sheen on the edge of the blade. The two orcs facing me swung and I was able to avoid one of the attacks. The other struck me and I could feel the insidious effects of poison begin to wind their way through my body. The orcs looked pleased that they had managed to strike me, but they had obviously never fought a Dwarfen defender before. It would take much more than that attack to bring me down, and they would not live long enough to deal that kind of damage.
Great, wracking coughs were heard from within the cloud of gas and I head a body thump to the floor. The fourth orc stumbled out of the cloud and advanced on me, swinging wildly with is blade. I deflected it easily and settled in for a protracted battle against multiple opponents. This was turning into a rather fun night. I saw Cora roll to her side and then, in a single motion, spring back to her feet and drive her dagger deep into the back of the orc who had attacked Keras. He gave a roar of pain, but Cora had already fallen back away from him. I heard a sudden shout behind me, “Isand, duck.” Two rounds struck the fourth orc almost simultaneously, both exploding in a shower of shrapnel and fire. I did not have time to move, but it affected the other two orcs as much as it affected me.
As we found our feet, we killed three of the four orcs without suffering any losses ourselves. The last orc was backing up, his eyes darting from person to person when Francis shuffled past me towards the middle of the train car, trying to find a place to cast a spell that would catch us in its blast. As he passed me, however, an enormous head ducked down and unleashed a scream of psionic pain. It’s force drove Francis across the car and left him standing beside the orc. With a sudden motion, Francis drew a dagger and slid it up under the orc’s helm into his neck. In the sudden relative silence of the car, the only noise I was aware of was Francis’ harsh breathing as he stood over the fallen orc with is bloodied blade. “What,” he rasped, “the fuck jusht hit me.”
“That big thing with a tail on the roof? I think it’s a dragon,” said Cora in a rather offhand manner.
Ronan, swabbing down the barrel of his arquebus, looked up with a smile on his face, “Next item of business, kill a dragon riding on top of our train. I say we split up and hit him from both sides.”
I walked over to check on Keras and, seeing that he was okay, headed to the back of the car to examine its connection to the rear cars. “I agree with Ronan. First, however, we need to pull this pin and slow down our pursuers a bit.” I gave the pin a tug, straining a bit, before giving up. “Keras, come give his pin a tug. I’m going to head to the front of the car and check the engine. I’ll meet you up top so we can get rid of our pesky guest.”
As I walked towards the front of the car, Cora fell in beside me. I heard a sharp metal screech and then suddenly the train seemed to leap forward. A few seconds later, I heard a loud crash behind us. I was about to turn around and smile at Keras when I saw the dragon’s head appear briefly. I did not have time to brace myself mentally before a wall of pain hit me. It sent me and Cora stumbling forward and we managed to reach the front of the car. I pulled the door open and we saw the open engine compartment in front of us. I glanced back at the others to see that they were filing out of the car to climb onto the roof.
“This,” said Cora, “is a little disturbing.” ‘A little disturbing’ seemed not quite appropriate for the scene that confronted us. The engineer, or what was left of him, was splattered across the controls. The controls themselves, aside from a generous coating of engineer innards, seemed to be slightly damaged. Cora cracked her knuckles and without a backward look, waded into the room. “I’m going to head up to the roof and help the others, do you think you can fix this?” She nodded her head, still focused on the controls, so I climbed the ladder to join the others in slaying a dragon.
As my head crested the train car, I saw the back of a purple dragon and my companions on the far side of the train car huddled against the end of the car. I sprang up with my hammer at the ready to charge the dragon when the wind caught me and almost flung my flat on my face. Luckily, my low center of gravity allowed me to catch myself but the racket I made alerted the dragon to my presence. As the dragon turned to face me, I could see that she had already taken quite a few serious wounds. My new companions had only been up on the roof a few seconds before I got there, but it seemed as if they were quite a force to be reckoned with. I closed with the dragon and landed a crushing blow on her wing, staggering her almost off of the train. Keras charged in with is gouge, followed closely by Odelle. As their blows landed the dragon suddenly trumpted in pain, the force of which threw the three of us back away from the dragon. I was able to catch myself before I fell off the train, but just barely. As I stood back up, I found my gaze captured by the dragon’s and I suddenly felt her in my mind. I had experienced this before and I knew not to resist wildly.
Part of my training had taught me how to deal with having someone else dominate my mind. For most people, their first reaction is to frantically push at the creature. The key to escaping is to relax, let your mind loosen and wait for your chance to strike. I felt the dragon move me towards Keras, then saw him glance behind and see me. I wanted to warn him, but I knew it was not time to make my move yet. Keras swung at the dragon again, trusting me to move up and guard his left side. His attack was so ferocious that it knocked the dragon prone. Her rage at being handled so flooded my mind and I felt her ready an attack through me. I planted my feet, gripped my hammer, and swung. The impact rocked Keras and dropped him to his knees. My heart ached at the thought of what I had just done, but I knew that Keras would benefit more from me being my in control of myself again more than if I had managed to pull that last hit. The dragon, having seen me give in so completely to her control, turned to my companions and let out a mighty roar. The physical blast was accompanied by a blast of psionic energy. The physical blast pushed them back towards the edge and I saw Francis tumble back over the edge. Both Keras and Odelle were felled by the psionic attack and were tossed limply back by the attack. My other companions seemed stunned by the attack and I watched in horror as the dragon began to draw in a mighty breath to blow the others off of the train car.
I felt the train suddenly begin to slow as the brakes engage and I glanced back to see Cora come bounding off the top of the ladder and land on the roof of the car. Awnya, the only person seemingly unfazed by the attack raised her hand and unleashed a mighty cascade of light. The dragon, caught off guard by the sudden searing blast reared back and I felt her hold on my mind weaken for a second. Feeling my chance, I grabbed onto her mind and thrust it away from me. She reflexively pulled her awareness back into her mind but did not seem to realize that I had not let go. I drove a spike of psychic energy deep into her mind as I drove my battle standard of healing into the ground at my feet. Summoning my will, I felt a surge of healing energy flow through me. Both Keras and Odelle suddenly stirred on the ground as they were pulled back from the brink of death. The dragon had already begun to roar at my companions again and did not realize that doing so would kill her. As she began to sweep her head from right to left across my companions, she crumpled to the top of the train car as my psychic spike finally pierced the inner recesses of her mind and seperated her soul from her body.
I saw a hand slap onto the top of the train car behind my companions and then Francis pulled himself up. “My dear, that wash brutal.”
Cora walked up behind me, right hand resting gently on her dagger. “I stopped the train before we fell off the bridge, but it looks like I missed all the fun.”
Ronan, having recovered from the dragon’s last attack, glanced back the way we had just come. “It looks like the fun is just beginning. I don’t know about you, but I’m not exactly happy with these orcs right now. I’ve got a bag full of shot and enough range between us to make them regret letting us get this far ahead.”
The other members of the party moved forward and began tightening armor and checking straps. Awnya moved among us, whispering quiet prayers to her deity, as she healed us. I pulled my battle standard out of the ground and moved to join my new found friends. I clapped Keras on the shoulder and he just gave me a rueful grin, “Where did you learn to hit that hard?”
Ahead of us, a party of orcs swarmed over the two cars we had detached. It was time to go put an end to this.