The Drider support was congregated into a circle. Falnimam and a few lesser priestesses were in the center, performing a dance that was supposed to give the soldiers courage to fight. The soldiers then took up a chant to help the priestesses’ dance. While it wasn’t exactly magical, they all felt their courage rise to near supernatural proportions. Falnimam then went to the exact center and spoke. “Ages ago, when my family and I were supposedly ‘cursed’ with this form, we turned it around to make our shape a blessing! We had the courage to say to those who hated us for failing Drow Society that we learn better from them! Now, we hear those words again! They claim that whatever failures our people made is going to lead us to extinction! Those are the words of murderous dogs, dogs who would dare destroy our children’s future, our way of life!”
“DEPTHS-SPAWN!” shouted a soldier.
“Today, we go to battle to prove the enemy wrong! Our failures teach us to improve! Defeat for the Realm Trinity Empire! Victory for the Realms!”
“VICTORY FOR THE REALMS!” cheered the soldiers. They then took up their positions, the priestesses setting their wands into their staffs.
“Gotta hand it to you,” muttered Quenthem as he approached Falnimam, “you know how to work a crowd.”
“Every word I said was the truth,” replied Falnimam.
“I see why Melandra likes you.”
“Oh, there are other reasons, but you’re not wrong.” As she held her position, she got a whiff of something. “…Is someone baking?”
“You smell that too, huh? You go ahead and investigate; I’ll hold your place here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Leave it to me.”
“Very well.” Falnimam scuttled down the wall and followed her nose. “That smell’s a little too savory. I thought we’re going with rations only.” She entered a kitchen outside the dungeon under the wall and found Melandra at the ovens. “Melandra, what are you doing?!” she yelped. “I thought you were watching those prisoners from yesterday!”
“I’m doing better than that,” replied Melandra. “I’m making them a pie.”
“…You’re BAKING for them while we’re preparing for a siege?! But we have a food shortage, even WITH the supplies we brought!”
“…Okay, Mella, kindly explain yourself to your Priestess.”
“I have this theory that, if our prisoners believe we can out last a siege, they can convince the Trinnies to give up. All we have to do is feed them plenty of fresh baked goods and then let them escape.”
“Exactly! Because of their nature, they’ll take the opportunity and give the information to the Trinnies and…”
“I see, the enemy will think the siege will be hopeless! However, there IS one thing missing.” Falnimam pulled out an object from her bag. “I heard they like the more pungent cheeses. If you REALLY want to impress them, put a little dab on top.”
“Hey, we’re trying to TRICK them, not POISON them!” Melandra took the pie as it finished cooling.
“I don’t know where you Modern Driders learned to cook, but you have no taste for old Drow cooking!”
“Just follow my lead.” The two Driders then approached a cell occupied by Reb Rojam, Melgem, and Jargoon! “Chow time, incarcerates!”
“What slop did you bring?” grumbled Jargoon. Reb and Melgem looked a little more appreciative as they saw the pie.
“It’s a specialty baked good with a little filling of a certain nut from the Mid-realm,” teased Melandra. “I believe you once said you missed it as you moaned your lot in life while here.”
“PECAN PIE!” cheered Melgem.
“GIMME!” urged Reb.
“NO! BE STRONG!” roared Jargoon. “We don’t accept charity from our jailors! Get ahold of yourselves!”
“Fishy, our WEAKENED stomachs are PITIFULLY empty!” argued Reb. “We’ve had nothing but the most DREADFUL bread since we left the Over-realm last year!”
“Well, we’ve got enough to outlast a prolonged siege,” chuckled Melandra.
“Besides, it looks tasty, doesn’t it?” urged Falnimam. Jargoon finally cracked.
“OKAY! I GIVE UP! YES! GIVE US THE PIE! WE’RE STARVING!”
“I thought so,” remarked Melandra as he cut the pie into thirds. He then set the pieces onto a plate and handed them to each prisoner.
“Mm MM! I SO missed this!” sighed Reb as they ate. “And you can afford this while under a RUTHLESS siege?”
“Believe it or not, yes,” answered Falnimam.
“Then the enemy’s wasting its time,” grunted Jargoon.
“No kidding,” agreed Melgem.
“…Boys, we need to discuss something,” remarked Reb. “Something that will benefit the Realms AND our profits.”
“Oh?” asked Melgem.
“What?” quizzed Jargoon.
“We need to join Arsha.” Everyone’s eyes went wide at the revelation.
“…Ex-Pirate Admiral say what?” asked Melandra.
“I know we have a rather TROUBLED history,” replied Reb, “but this war isn’t doing the three of us ANY favors. Every time we try to treat with the Realm Trinity Empire, they try to kill us and frankly, I’m DREADFULLY sick of it. I want to treat with Arsha. We have a common enemy AND I know their base of operations like the back of my hand.”
“…I’ll have to consult with Arsha,” answered Melandra. “She can give you her answer when she’s made her decision.”
“That’s fair.” The two Driders then left the dungeon.
“You can’t trust her!” hissed Falnimam. “Reb and Melgem are pirates at heart and Jargoon hates people that aren’t Mega-sharks!”
“Yeah, but they’re all on the run right now,” answered Melandra. “Look, I hate their guts as much as anyone else, but we need any advantage we can get. They said they repeatedly tried to treat with Dr. Borg, maybe they did so while sneaking onto Plunder Island Stronghold.”
“And you think she’ll keep her end of the bargain?”
“She did so after our first encounter, she’ll keep her end if there’s profit in it for her. I’d say she’s found talking with Dr. Borg a non-profitable venture.”
“Jargoon’s also a rapist.”
“…You’re right, that’ll affect Arsha’s decision.”
“As their team stands now, I’m sorry,” answered Arsha when Melandra posed his suggestion, “but Jargoon makes it too risky. If he weren’t a factor, I’d actually accept. Despite their reputation, Denstra told me that she only killed crewmates once a year and she’s been in the pirate business for 38 years. No one else died by her hands, even when she ordered innocent people to be killed. Melgem never killed anyone. But, as I’m sure you remember, Lieutenant, Jargoon perpetuated sex-slavery when he ruled the Trelfan Trench. I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”
“I understand, Captain,” replied Melandra.
Arsha approached the dungeon and found the ex-pirates’ cell. “I hate to disappoint you all,” she said, “but Jargoon makes it too dangerous. If it were just you, I’d accept, but the Endeavor would feel wildly uncomfortable with having a known rapist on board.”
“You’re still calling me a rapist when they’ve long asked for it?!” roared Jargoon.
“Just because their religious beliefs said that they should wear no clothes does NOT mean they were asking for that kind of torment! I would have thought you’d learn actual consent, but clearly not.”
“Er, can Reb and I at least get a new cell? Separate from him?” asked Melgem.
“It’d help me sleep BEAUTIFULLY at night,” agreed Reb.
“Now that, I see no problem with,” answered Arsha. A guard then motioned for two of his colleagues to level their spears at Jargoon and keep him at bay as they transferred the Rojams to another cell.
“I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!” Jargoon reduced the guards’ spears to splinters and burst through the wall.
“STOP HIM!” ordered the first guard as he and his fellows gave chase.
Jargoon didn’t stop his rampage. He barreled through the streets of Realmgate city and simply smashed through buildings, not caring for the potential loss of life. He then came to the wall and jumped up before he dug his claws into it. He then started climbing it! “Come down from there!” called a Guardsman. Jargoon paid no attention.
“My people need me!” he panted to himself. “I must get to them! Our dominance depends on it!” He made it to the top and sprinted towards the outer edge.
“STOP!” ordered Quenthem. The Pixie then grabbed Jargoon’s dorsal fin. “YOU’RE GOING BACK TO…!”
“UNHAND ME, YOU WORTHLESS BUG!” Jargoon then grabbed Quenthem, held him into the air, and bent him in a way that caused his spine to break! Jargoon then tossed the broken Pixie into his soldiers before he leapt over them and fell down the outside of the wall. He landed, albeit painfully, on his feet, then sprinted away from the city. That was when a knife from ahead flew towards him and buried itself into his skull. He stood for a few seconds before falling forward. Jargoon, the infamous King of the Mega-sharks, was dead. The soldiers on the wall tried to determine where the knife came from. They got their answer as a mass invisibility spell was undone. It was Yulduk and his army, but it got bigger, in more ways than one.
“What’s going on?!” demanded Mordek as he arrived in flames. One of the soldiers just pointed to the enemy forces. His eyes went wide. “…No…” he whispered. While Yulduk’s army was still composed of Revenants, Golems, and Robots, it had two new additions. The first, most obvious additions were giant, purple, winged serpents with arms like a human’s and a tail for ground locomotion. Half of the serpents had a single horn on their snout and all of them had a set of horns on their scalps like Dalengor’s. The other addition looked like Falnimam from the waist up, but they had humanoid legs instead of a spider body. “…Drows…and Shadow Dragons!” breathed Mordek.