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As they reached the upper Levels, the Solars heard the front doors boom open. Their enemies were inside the fortress.

Charging into the foyer, Krod saw an awe inspiring sight - five Dragon Blooded, formed up in a line and ready to meet him. In the centre, an Earth Aspect with his great maul. On either side, two Air Aspects with icy winds whipping around them. On the far right, a Fire Aspect with flames rising from his hair and sword, while on the far left stood a Water Aspect whose features flowed and rippled in the breeze. On seeing the Solars, they shouted out in fury ... "Foul Anathema! We have defeated your Demon Spawn, now we will destroy you!"

This time, Archer neglected to use his famous line - instead his new Combo burst forth upon his foes. Arrows rained down and struck like bolts of lightning; but the first two, aimed at the Air Aspects, were deflected at Krod (the "Safety Among Enemies" charm ^_^)! The Earth and Water aspects were wounded, but unfazed.

Krod then let loose his own Combo, and the whirlwind of blows was simply too much for one of the Air Aspects who was left shattered and broken on the ground. But then the Earth Aspect charged, his maul rising for a massive blow which Krod could not quite deflect! And next came the Water Aspect, his unarmed blows sending water seeping through Krod's armour and wounding him further as ten of the realm's elite troops charged into the room.

Yet again Archer loosed a volley of arrows, decimating the troops ... but then something strange happened. As the last arrow arched towards the last of the foot soldiers, he morphed and shifted, becoming an eight foot tall cross between a human and an ice falcon; with a smile on his face he batted aside the arrow, shouting "This time, Stormslayer, you shall Live to face the Consequences of your Actions!" As the remaining Air Aspect loosed seven daggers in Krod's direction and clod fell to the earth, the monster jumped on top of the Earth Aspect and with five great swipes decapitated him.

The battle inside the fortress was soon over after that ... the Dragon Blooded's essence having run out long since. In the aftermath, Archer bowed himself before the Shifter and called it master. With a look of utter disdain, it spat in his direction and stalked out as leonines separated themselves from the walls and moved menacingly forward and Realm's army loosed arrows in the direction of Archer (Mina's shadow was flick-flacking across the scree with a sai aimed at the remaining Air Aspect outside, with Essence Shackles on his hands). Archer ducked behind a wall as the arrows "thunked" into it, then spun around and loosed his own hail of bone shafts - piercing the entire host through the heart.

In the quiet of the aftermath, Archer dragged Krod's unconscious body outside as the Leonines looted the corpses inside (! ^_^). Off to one side Ice Falcon (the Lunar) explained a little of what had really been going on to Mina - how the demons had tricked Archer into freeing them, how they had broken off their attack on the Dragon Blooded host to flee the demon lands and ravage the world outside, and how the guardian had tricked them again and again. Ice Falcon also told Mina to inform Archer that he no longer had a mate, and that the next time she saw him he would breathe his last. Then he flew away, far and fast.

While Krod healed, Mina walked through the fortress playing her Sanxian and grinding every mirror inside to dust. It was now time to undo what damage could be undone, and the Solars followed the Dragon Blooded host back to the ruins of Tangra's reach and on to Nexus, where much of the loot was sold and tales of Demons abounded - Stomach Bottle Bugs, and strange musicians with long hair and bone flutes who turned out to be demons too. Decanthropes if Stiletto is to be believed.

And Stiletto? In Nexus, a shifty character offered Archer information for money - money Archer was not interested in parting with. Threatening him into revealing the information without paying, Archer was satisfied with himself - until he realised that his bow was missing! Impossible! Yet true ...

Destroying houses and property and beating all who came into his path, Archer flew into an immense rage - only halted when Mina was approached by the thief, who revealed himself to be "Stiletto", a Night Caste, and for an insignificant sum returned the bow. After all, Stiletto's main purpose - revealing the place where the demons were gathering (in Sijan) - had been accomplished.

About 8 XP each