I'd been taught a harsh lesson I wouldn't soon forget. It was going to take much longer to trust people in the future.
Despite this, my ego began to swell a little. I was on the up, in a formidable clan, and becoming a powerful warrior. But after my first siege defense I was reminded that I still had a long way to go.
Initially, Team Stormfront was excited by the prospect of an enemy invasion. We'd have knowledge of local terrain and a fortified position to fall back to if the fighting became too difficult. We saw the looming threat as a way to test our hard earned skills in a massive conflict, to have our fighting mean something. All day we prepared, scouting the best ambush points, arranging our armor and weapons so that we'd have easy access to them.
But the mood in Tugri was not one of anticipation. As the day wore on I started to notice a legitimate element of fear amongst the busy members of Dominion. Just how big was the attack force that was coming for us?
Restless, and without anything more to do, I got on a horse and circled the city, looking for any sign of the enemy. They were still hours away, but still I scouted. Back in the wilderness, I had a brief pang of nostalgia, remembering when I had no city or allies to fall back on, and remembering how strangely thrilling it was to be on my own, hiding from outlaws and sneaking through monster camps.
Was I really cut out for the life of a professional soldier, when I had survived this long as a ranger? I suppose even as a ranger I had fought for Team Stormfront, and it was true that we were all much richer and safer with Dominion. I forced down my doubts and rode back for Tugri to listen to the defense strategy. It would soon be time to defend my home.
After a short assembly with the Dominion Generals, I looked around for Publius or Pangalactic or anyone from Team Stormfront, but they were nowhere inside the city. Had they gone out to scout like I had? Are they laying in ambush somewhere? Before I could find out the leaders of Dominion began to scream and gather everyone together. The enemy had arrived early. They'd somehow slipped by our scouts and were already charging up the causeway towards the city.
I was swept up in the action. Already wearing my mail, I charged out with Dominion, surrounded by people that were still strangers. There seemed to be some sort of internal organization to the charge that I did not understand. Our army thundered out the door and over the walls hoping to catch the siege force unprepared. We stood above them on the high ground and rained down a hundred spells of lightning, necrotic rot, and lances of flame. The enemies scattered for cover and we all hunkered down as the ranged battle began. It became a conservative war of attrition.
My first death that day came when I saw a couple bodies floating in a pond at the base of the fortress. I swam out and began to pull the rare and powerful armor from their corpses. That's when about five arrows struck me in the back. A group of enemies from the main force had noticed me slinking off and came to hunt me down. I didn't last long, even after diving underwater. My lifeless body floated back up and my spirit was hurled into the raging screaming void, on my way back to the find stone.
As always, death was painful, demoralizing, and disorienting, but my blood was still on fire with battle lust. The inside of Tugri, I noticed, was deserted. The fighting had moved away from the city, and it seems our forces had pushed the enemy back. I stood from the battlements after rearming, and saw that there was no one left to fight. Dominion chased the invaders down towards the beach. And that was right when the real invasion force arrived.
They flew over the city walls dozens at a time, with no one to stand in their way. I ducked into a building hoping to shoot them from the windows but they discovered me immediately, surrounded me, and cut me to pieces until all was black.
I woke again at bind stone, without weapons or armor. Dominion was rushing back to the fortress as fast as they could, but they were scattered and leaderless. The invaders cut them down as they came over the walls and soon the bindstone was crowded with confused and unarmed allies.
I dashed off again, scavenging armor from bodies as I went. Finally I thought I was equip enough to start fighting back. I found an Alfar on his own, who was hurling battlespikes into a building, laughing as the flames started to spread inside.
I fired a curse at him and then brought all my strength to bear behind a sword blow aimed at his chest. He barely flinched as the blow dented his armor. He casually took out his staff and blasted me into the sky with a bolt of fire. As I came down he launched spell after spell into me, wracking my mind with agony and burning my flesh. By the time I landed he only needed one swing of his two handed sword to kill me. I was hurled back into the void.
This process repeated itself again and again and it became clear... I wasn't a match for anyone. Whether it was due to my confused state, from being surrounded, or just outclassed, the truth was that I couldn't kill a single person on my own.
Death followed death, and soon I entirely gave up on fighting. I thought to hurt the enemies the only way I could. I started stealing armor and reagents off the bodies of the fallen, and tucking them into a hiding place. I'd only ever grab a few pieces and safely stash them before dying again, but I managed to build up quite a stock pile. It was a pitiful revenge. The invaders had all come in expendable gear. What did they care if I stole a fraction of a fraction of it.
It wasn't enough. Death. Death. Death. Alfar spells, Ork axes, human broadswords. By the time I lost count of how many times I'd died... I had entirely given up. Dominion had come back in force and the battle was heavy all around me, but I only sat at the bind stone with dull eyes and watched the carnage, without a single care.