While war rages below, while tens of thousands of lives struggle for victory hundreds of feet below, heroes and villains draw swords and come to blows. Chogaruk leaps across the ship’s deck and engages Metarkh Ptolomos directly, thwarted in his attempt by the holy Aspect of Arkos that materializes above the tiefling warlord. The remaining soldiers – Truarkhs and trueforged alike – descend upon the adventurers alike and a tense battle, possibly the toughest of the Company’s career, is joined.
The fortunes flop back and forth, sometimes favoring the heroes, sometimes their adversaries. The trueforged simulacrum of Ûbolya is dispatched with haste by Chogaruk’s axe and Zanna spends more of the combat unconscious than she spends fighting, dropped to her knees multiple times. Zencaré shouts encouragements to the troops battling below through the ship’s loudspeaker system, while Vaca engages a whole squad of Truarkhs at once. It’s ultimately Chogaruk who brings down the Metarkh, gambling all on a risky charge across the embattled deck. Zencaré breaks Hamessu Betrest’s will, after sending his fellow lich on a terrifying journey to another realm.
Their foe vanquished, The Nameless Company hatches a devious plan to crash the skyship into the unsuspecting Truarkh ranks. In the attempt to both crash the ship and escape with their lives, Vaca sacrifices himself to save Zanna. When they, picking through the wreckage, discover the shifter’s body, its utterly lifeless, pierced through the heart by a piece of debris. In rage, The Nameless Company fights their way through whatever Arkhosians stand in their way and emerges onto the battlefield proper to discover that the day is won.
Queen Mexa stands high upon a mountain of slain enemies, surrounded by her cheering throngs of Arkhosian loyalists, the burnt and damaged Standard of Eternal Battle wafting in the breeze. Chogaruk mends things, if temporarily, with Tawessu and tends to his slaughtered flock of goliaths. Tojezen is the only of the four dragons to survive the battle, Xandromox and both Wyrmling Princes among the dead. The Haggard Host survives in its entirety, swollen even by those Boozy Battalion mercenaries that join its numbers.
The greatest casualty, in the hearts of the adventurers, is, of course, Vaca, their brother-in-arms.
They return to The Nightowl briefly, to inform Drek of the bad news and receive a pair of letters the fighter once wrote, months earlier, before departing into Dread Salarza; one addressed to The Nameless Company, the other to Culas of House Topaz. Their eyes misty with tears from Vaca’s touching words, the adventurers hurry away to Lazandromûs and Culas’s alpine estates. Working quickly, the Hero of House Amethyst summons her house priest and casts the necessary rituals to contact Vaca beyond the grave.
Wandering in Nifol, the soul of Vaca L’oy Dakursa meets a stooped crone and starts his long journey. Voices materialize from the mist, asking him to convert to the faith of Gad, the Earththinker. This he does and is brought before the Library of Lore, Gad’s astral domain. Inside, he meets a familiar young dwarven scholar who leads him out of the afterlife and back amongst the company of his friends.
In Culas’ parlor, Vaca’s eyes snap open.