It's a couple of days late, but here's a little D&D homage to International Women's Day; dedicated to all women worldwide who take on the mantle of "One" in "Army of One" in their respective metaphorical and literal battlefields.
Jakorla was nodding off in the narrow ledge she had found the day before. Leading the villagers through the roads had been taxing, used as she was to move on her own, or in the company of seasoned warriors or adventurers. Now she had to deal with their excruciatingly slow pace, inexperience and complete uselessness in batle.
But she couldn't abandon them either. The push and shove that marked the conflict between Karrnath and Cyre had left many homeless, and the ultimate shove came the day before yesterday, when a white mist covered the land, killing everything in its path. The villagers she was leading were survivors who'd received the warning and fled.
She was actually a Karrnathi officer, a special agent sent to suicide missions because death was not only her trade, it was part of her life. She was born death-touched, or shadar-kai, in some ancient tongue or another, and she was good with both blade and spell.
"Wake up, Jaks." A cold voice whispered in her ear and she snapped her eyes open.
"What is it, Arise?" She whispered as she scanned her surroundings. She knew they were very close to Karrnathi patrol routes, and she didn't trust their undead commanders to have any pity for the Cyrean refugees.
"You know. Patrol." The ghost of her sister faded into view; during their respective initiations into the arcane, Arise had suffered a fatal accident, just as Jakorla was succeeding in bonding with her blade as was the swordmage tradition, and during the process she had actually bonded her sister's spirit to her.
"Skeletons." The disembodied voice said. "But something's wrong with their officer."
"Damn it." Jakorla muttered. She had wanted to walk the inhospitable lands away from the road, but the children and the old people couldn't hope to navigate the unforgiving terrain. The patrol would find them, and any warning Jakorla could give would be nigh useless.
"Be careful. I am not eager to welcome you into the underworld, Jaks." The ghost vanished slowly, sensing her sister's resolve forming.
"Bugger." The arcane swordswoman whispered to no one but herself. She hid as best she could, but stealth was not exactly her forte. Fortunately, undead were rather single-minded (or null-minded) and she wasn't spotted when the small regiment marched by her hiding place. The skeletons bore the reinforcements of the Karrnathi army, and they weren't alone. There was a sizeable zombie detail, and Jakorla confirmed Arise's suspicions when she saw the officer. He appeared human, but there was something definitely wrong with him.
"Vampire..." Jakorla whispered. This wasn't an official Karrnathi regiment, the vampire must have wrested control of the undead cannon-fodder from their rightful commander, and they were marching inexorably towards the refugees. "Damn it all. Arise, let's go!"
The twins, one half-living, the other fully dead, charged.
The undead army was not prepared to be ambushed, let alone by a lone attacker. Jakorla whispered arcane words of enchantment, making her sword glow green. She slashed horizontally at the air before them, and the green light splashed in a wide arc, turning into acid that dissolved the first rank of skeletons between her an their vampiric commander.
She didn't waste time. Another battle spell later made the air shimmer with soft, glowing runes that made the air solidify around her, just before she hurled the enchanted sword at the vampire.
The steel transformed midway into a powerful bolt of lightning that hit the creature dead-on, knocking him off his horse before it double backed and returned to her hand.
"Arise! Take him!" She shouted, and the ghost of her sister flew effortlessly through the remaining ranks of undead.
"Minions! Destroy her!" The vampire managed to articulate as he jumped to his feet, and the undead swarmed around Jakorla.
To no avail. The swordmage danced through the crushing horde, and the air around her ocassionaly burst into light as an attack impacted her magical barrier.
The vampire lord unsheathed and slashed at Arise, but years of fighting together with her still-living sister had granted the spectre with uncanny battle prowess and she dodged easily. The attack triggered a small lightning nimbus around the vampire, for Jakorla's blade bolt had imposed of him the rune of Aegis. The shadar-kai disappeared from among the throng of skeletons, suddenly materializing behind the vampire and impaling him with her sword.
"Foolish... mortal..." The man bared his fangs in a wicked smile. "It will take more to defeat me."
"Don't worry, I do have more." Jakorla returned the grin and struck true again.
Any onlooker would have regarded the ensuing battle with great confusion. The vampire turned into mist and flew off between attacks, but Jakorla blinked in and out of existance in magical pursuit, relentlessly slashing at the commander as she flickered in and out of view to whittle down his undead troops.
Terrible curses flew at her, only to slide off her half-dead soul. She invoked this power more than once to join her sister's ephemeral state so that the blades of the skeletal legion simply passed through her. Any other warrior would have succumbed now from a dozen of small wounds that Jakorla simply evaded, blocked, or made irrelevant.
The vampire grew desperate and tried flying off once, only to be snagged by an arc of lighning that pulled him back to the terrifying warrior's side.
"M-mercy!" He cried, but already he was planning one last-ditch escape.
"No mercy." Jakorla muttered.
The vampire turned into a cloud of fog, but Jakorla was ready for this. She had one last spell prepared for this: a line of runes danced across her blade as she slammed it down where the vampire's chest would have been, slicing through the veil between worlds that she was so familiar with, for she spent har her life skirting it.
The vampire solidified again, along the ghostly blade in his body. He did not move anymore, and his demise made the remaining skeletons stop trying to attack Jakorla. All three of them, out of several dozen.
"I am Dame Jakorla Varsanath of the Phantom Legion." She stood straight and proud, even if the furious battle's toll began to weigh on her. "By the oaths that bind you to service, I command you to follow me."
The skeletons lined up behind her, following in mindless obedience.
"Jaks... you need rest." Arise whispered as she returned to the little pouch around Jakorla's neck, the one that held the pinch of ashes of her former body.
"I will rest when I'm dead." The shadar-kai swordmage replied, not bothering to hide the fatigue from her voice.
"You certainly keep trying..." Arise's words faded into the mist that began to rise from the ground.
Jakorla is a 11th level shadar-kai (Dragon #372) swordmage (Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting) with the Ghost Blade (Arcane Power) paragon path. Arise is her Specter familiar (Arcane Power, Dragon #382).
Level 11 Hero
Female Shadar-kai Swordmage (Arcane Defender)
HP 93; Bloodied 46; Surge 23
AC 28, Fortitude 22, Reflex 22, Will 21
Speed 6 Initiative +6
At-will powers: Lightning Lure, Booming Blade; Aegis of Assault
Encounter powers: Crackling Burst, Vanishing Blade, Corrosive Ruin, Ghost Sword; Shadow Jaunt ; Dimensional Warp
Daily powers: Dimensional Bond, Evoker's Summoning, Blade Bolt; Impenetrable Warding, Spellseer Familiar
Skills: Acrobatics +8; Arcana +15; Athletics +11; Bluff +7; Diplomacy +7; Dungeoneering +5; Endurance +14; Heal +5; History +10; Insight +10; Nature +5; Perception +5; Religion +10; Stealth +8; Streetwise +7; Thievery +6
Feats: Arcane Familiar (Specter), Weapon Expertise (Heavy Blade), Intelligent Blademaster, Spellseer Familiar, Active Familiar, Ghostly Wind, Improved Swordmage Warding
Str 12 (+1) Dex 13 (+1) Wis 11 (+0)
Con 18 (+4) Int 21 (+5) Cha 14 (+2)
Alignment: Good Languages: Common, Deep Speech
Equipment: Farbond Spellblade +3; Ever-Fading Leather Armor +2; Cloak of Distortion +2