Sparkling water flowed excitedly over a multi-tiered waterfall, giving way to a lush valley filled with colors scarcely seen outside a dream. Occasionally broken by the uneven ground, the emerald canopy allowed the sky a chance view of the wonders below. Cheerful hwits danced through the air to the tune of their scarletsong while mighty predators put their hunt aside to rest within the heart of Paradwyn. This was the picture of the Sacred Basin as it had been, before falling beneath the fog of war.
Now the vivid colors are dimmed and subdued. The scarletsong was no longer sung here; its chorus afraid of giving away their hiding places to the ensuing chaos. Instead the beautiful melody has been replaced by the incessant thundering of the drums of war.
In the three days since Korg and his minions had pushed their way deep into the center of the jungle, a shocked and terrified collection of Paradwyn's finest Magi have been fighting tooth and nail to keep the invaders from the Grove of the Paradise Gem. They would never, in their worst nightmares, have dreamed that Korg could have come this far; but there is one far more surprised than they are.
Why, Olabra screamed inwardly, is this place so full of weaklings that none can best that fool Korg? Pacing back and forth, the Elder of Bograth searched the waging battle from her vantage atop a small knoll. Soon the bagala-woman's ambush will come from behind, and I can spring my own little trap, Olabra thought to herself. Lazily tapping the animite ring on her finger she crouched and gazed across the tangled melee. Her eyes fell upon Bahza, who was studying the skirmish from his own perch above the entrance to the Grove. With narrowed eyes Olabra sneered at the slender Paradan, and her thoughts began to mock him. Did you honestly think I would not have noticed her absence? You always were more of a fool than your years should have?
Standing so swiftly as to almost lose her balance, Olabra lit up with excitement. OF COURSE! Bahza would have no difficulty in felling our illustrious "king"; that is, if I can find a way to pry Golthub from his side! Rubbing the exhaustion from her eyes Olabra scanned the fray once more, seeking an opportunity to set her new plan into motion.
To the north of the trampled and decimated clearing, Baa, Weip, Granna and Ninibom unleashed brilliant blasts of energy from outstretched rings. The humid air blurred and swirled as dream energy flowed from the concentrating Magi. Within seconds a veritable army of dreams had appeared before them, swiftly replacing those that Boria had just vanquished. The four of them were exacting a costly toll on her, and it was obvious that she did not have much fight left in her. With a swift tap on one of her own rings, Boria called forth a rainbow hued Jungle Hyren from her beleaguered mind.
From the center of the conflict, Ookami watched painfully as his friend's Hyren was swarmed and dragged to the ground by the Bograthian host. With a sharp whistle, Ookami fetched the attention of a brace of his own Lahalou. A jerk of his head in Boria's direction was all he needed to send his avian friends to her aid, all the while continuing to pound out the beat of his war drums. A piercing screech split the jungle air as the brace took flight, led by a majestic Scarletsong Lahalou. The Lahalou's cries began to incite each other to frenzy as they danced through the tangled melee to reach their appointed charge. Swooping in none too soon, the graceful winged beasts began to snatch Bograthi creatures from the battered Hyren's struggling form; freeing it to turn its fury on the Magi responsible for its master's pain.
Pulling herself to her feet, Boria tried to cast Ookami a thankful smile, but his attention had been returned to the fight around him. In front of the jungle drummer stood Culla and Archid, both gripping redberry scepters with ring heavy hands; statuesque pictures of strength and beauty amongst the ruin and despair.
"Outta the way, girlies!" Keggerop leered at the two women, as he stepped forward menacingly. "The All High King wants his gem."
Disgusted, Archid snapped back, "You will not set one slimy foot in the Grove while we still dream."
"Says you." Blyght mocked from his vantage, safely behind Keggerop.
To reinforce the point, Culla held forth a hand and began to concentrate. The ring resting on her thumb began to blaze brightly as a mighty Oranragan began to take shape. "No," Archid smiled to her friend before placing an icy stare on Blyght, "says him." At that, the large dream creature coalesced fully into being.
Keggerop was forced to throw himself out of the way, as the Oranragan slammed its meaty fist into the trampled earth where he’d been standing. Scrambling to his feet, the embarrassed Magi thought to himself: Okay, this is not going to be as easy as we thought.
Crossing his arms impatiently, Korg glowered at Golthub. "Stop clownin' and bash 'em!" the All High King barked at his royal toady. "What’s da point of bein' in charge if nobuddy does whatcha tell ‘em to do?!?" Korg began stomping back and forth, occasionally waiving his scepter about angrily.
Through straining teeth Golthub offered "I am trying, my King?"
Yricho and Iain could only look at each other in disbelief. The two-headed, plantlike Magor standing before Golthub had been drawing out his energy for at least a minute now. Golthub made the mistake of trying to dream up a creature of the darkest nightmares in front of a Magor: Paradwyn's most (as Korg would put it) 'core-nivorous' denizen. Wanting a full meal, the Magor had begun warping the energies pouring from Golthub to create a bigger and bigger nightmare. Golthub had been trying desperately for what seemed an eternity to pry the Wudge ring off his stubby little finger, but to no avail. It appeared as though the chubby little Bograthian would soon be turned inside out by the energy flowing out of his ring.
"This is sad, really." Yricho said coolly. Iain merely nodded in astonishment.
Yricho grinned. "You can handle this?" More astonished nodding was all Iain could respond with. At that, Yricho dashed off to lend a hand where it might be needed.
Rivulets of sweat began racing down Golthub’s face as he began to tremble. "My Lord, I..." Golthub collapsed into a trembling heap before could finish. The grotesque, many fanged Wudge he was summoning shuddered with barely contained power until a hungry Magor pinned it down under one leafy foot and began to happily chomp it right back to the dream plane.
With Golthub thus occupied, Olabra saw the opportunity she had been waiting for. Scurrying down from her viewpoint on the knoll, Olabra headed for Korg. This is going too well, she thought to herself. The only thing that could make this more perfect would be...
"AMBUSH!" Weip’s cry of alarm rang out across the battlefield. "They have us now, we're done for!"
Olabra smiled, Right on time. From the northern border of the clearing, great hunting bagalas began to pounce onto the Bograthian creations. Not far behind them was Liriel, Paradwyn's bagala trainer, surrounded by another full pride of the hunting beasts. Motioning with a hand covered in glowing rings, she silently commanded her companions to join the fray.
Rushing to Korg’s side, Olabra struggled to sound anything but overjoyed. "My king, my king! They are on top of us! We must redouble our efforts! Rally the men, I will move ahead and fetch the gem for you!"
"Whaddayamean, YOU?" Korg whirled about to glower in Olabra's face. "I'm the king, I get ta' get da gem!" Though Olabra knew Korg to be a fool, his towering frame made for an imposing figure. She did not have to pretend to fear him. "By your word, my lord. I will handle this so you may move ahead."
"Durn tootin'." he spat down at her before pivoting on his heel to stomp his way through the fight. Standing straight, the elder regained her composure and looked down at the only ring she wore.
Storming past Golthub’s unconscious form, Korg stopped a moment to look at his snoozing toady. With an annoyed grunt he whirled to face a defensive Iain. Thrusting out both hands Korg unleashed a wave of sickly gray-green energy at the Paradan, which promptly leveled the poor, green skinned Magi. "That’s how you bash ‘em!" Korg roared at Golthub. Stepping on a moaning Iain, Korg resumed his stomping towards the Grove, muttering about All High Kings and why they have ‘subjeks.'
When Korg was safely out of earshot, Olabra mumbled to herself. "Perfect, my turn for a surprise."
With a casual, strolling gate, Olabra made her way into the thick of things. Humming to herself, she glanced back and forth, taking in the destruction around her. Everywhere the colors of bright jungle creatures were marred with filth and clinging swarms of swamp-crawling, Bograthian horrors. That’s it Paradwyn. Underestimate your simple neighbors. Giggling like a little girl, she began to rub the only animite ring she wore. It is time to join the battle, my little friend. Olabra pictured her moss-furred Makoor in her minds eye. Soon, with unexaggerated pomp, a slight fizzle and a snap brought the unobtrusive dream creature into existence before her.
Skittishly looking back and forth like a nervous hinko, the Makoor pressed up against Olabra’s leg. "Don’t worry, little one. They will not hurt you." Olabra cooed to the frightened creature. "Soon they will be gone and you will have nothing to fear. See? You have many friends here who will lend you their strength." She swept a hand over the commotion surrounding them, so that the Makoor could see all of his fellow Bograthian creatures. Olabra then leveled her tone and spoke to the creature commandingly. "Now, little one, drink in their power and bring the onslaught. Push our enemies to their knees."
Obeying dutifully, the Makoor began to hum a low tone. Quaking slightly, its cry grew in volume until soon it rivaled the thunder of Ookami’s war drums. So deafening was the moan that all of the fighting ceased and all present turned their attention to the smallish creature.
Soon the Makoor’s form began to violently shake, its mossy fur separating to allow sizzling green energy to escape. As if caught in an unseen explosion, each Bograthi creature burst into twinkling motes of light one by one until only the Makoor remained. Lifting their arms to shield their eyes from the now blinding light, the Paradans struggled to understand what was happening. Gripped with fear, many tried shouting commands to their creatures in hopes of doing away with this threat before something unspeakable occurred; but their voices were drowned in the sea of the Makoor’s wail. The only sound that could be heard through the horrid droning was Olabra’s laugh. Soon, her cackling laughter was the only remaining evidence of her presence as the intensifying light consumed even her silhouette.
Then, like a sack holding too much animite, the Makoor split, bathing the Sacred Basin in the searing green light. With the force of a raging storm, the energy ripped through the clearing, shattering every dream creature in its path and blasting the Paradan Magi from their feet. Soon all that was left was a low resonating groan, racing off into the distance.
Catching her breath from her mad bouts of laughter, Olabra smugly surveyed the wreckage. The Bograthians were cowering, just as confused as their enemies, and the Paradan were laid low and straining against battered bodies and burning skin. "This is the fate of all who oppose the might of Bograth," growled Olabra. "This is the fate of all who defy the will of Olabra."