The Chronicles of Valana Volume 1: Shadowlands
The Siege of Eri'Adar
The speaker will be whole, with innate ability and fire will be made whole.
The Fairfolk will be whole, with Elven Grace and primordial fire will be whole.
Father of one must sacrifice to make offspring whole. Father of one must guide offspring whole.
They touched ground a few kilometers outside of the main gates of Eri'Adar. Feldon found them some horses and paid for them.
Just as Aer'andil was ready to mount his, he fell on the ground clutching his temples. The space around him warped and dilated sending ripples of nothing outwards.
Segaru and Feldon tried to reach him but the waves of energy kept pushing them back on their backs.
A few minutes later it all stopped. He stood up with the help of Segaru.
"A…are you okay? What was that?" Segaru asked him looking worried.
"Aer'andil…what happened?" Feldon asked him.
"I guess Lucas did as I told him…we'll see…" He said to no one in particular and mounted his horse. With a smack of his heels, the horse started a trod.
Feldon and Segaru mounted their horses and followed him.
"What was that?" Feldon asked him again, it was not like Aer'andil not to answer him.
Aer'andil did not answer him immediately. "Important." He said and looked away towards the faint walls of Eri'Adar in the horison. "We must hurry." He said and spurred his horse until it was galloping. Feldon shook his head in disbelief and followed him with Segaru.
Almost two hours later, with the sun in its peak position in the blue sky they arrived at the main Gates of Eri'Adar. The same gates they had entered a year ago with Merol.
This time things were a lot quieter. No wagons, or queues of people coming and going, there was stillness in the air. Two guards stood watch.
"Halt! Who goes there? Can't have Rodenian spies infiltrating the city." One of the guards said.
Feldon raised a brow and Segaru was ready to speak but Aer'andil placed a hand on his shoulder and shook his head no. Segaru nodded and held his silence.
Feldon reached in his backpack and lowering his hood, he showed the two guardsmen a parchment opening it.
"By the authority of Liandras, High-King of all Elves you will let us pass and show us the Royal Palace. We have words to speak with the King."
The guards stood in attention and then made a small bow before opening the Gates.
"Torak! Get your ugly ass over here!" One of the guards yelled and a burly man came running.
"Take them to the Royal Palace." The guardsman told Torak.
"Sir what of the orders from the General-Commander Batril and Counsilor Gothral? No one is to disturb them or the King!" Torak complained to the other guardsman.
"I do not care what those jackals have said or ordered, we serve the King and Commander Merdoc. They are here from Gel'anr. The authority of the High-King of the Elves surpasses that of Councilor Gothral. Now take them to the Royal Palace soldier." The guardsman barked at Torak who saluted hastily and left waving for the three of them to follow him.
Walking through the city Feldon noticed that nothing seemed out of place, no preparations for a siege, no mobilisation of the army, no fortifications inside the city to ward against falling projectile weapons. The city was behaving as if nothing was the matter.
"Torak is it? Tell me if you can…why are there no preparations for the oncoming siege? Where's the army?" Feldon asked him calmly. Aer'andil could tell though that beneath the calm exterior worry brew.
Torak turned his head to see him, "what siege?" He asked looking completely befuddled.
Aer'andil opened his mouth to speak but Feldon stopped him by raising a hand.
They arrived at the Palace, entered it and Torak had them wait in an anti-chamber.
"Be at the ready, I can smell darkness a mile away…" Feldon whispered to them.
Aer'andil knew he was raising wards, as the guards would probably be ask them to surrender their weapons. He concentrated and started raising his own magical wards.
Two soldiers came out shortly after. "Give us your weapons and follow us." They said. They surrendered their weapons and followed them.
They entered a round room with a high vaulted granite ceiling and black marble floor with columns on its perimeter.
A large thick oak table stood in its middle with a map of Valana on it. The map had a few military campaign statuettes on it for tracking armies, naval fleets, agents and other assets. One of them near was near Rodenia.
Two men stood above the table with another two guards in the perimeter of the room plus the two men that had taken their weapons.
"General Commander Batril how is the army's preparations? We must not squander this grand opportunity to strike at our enemies while they are weak." One of the two men spoke to the other one. Feldon guessed him to be the Counsilor. He was dressed in fine silk garments, with golden rings on his fingers and a huge medallion around his neck with the initials of the merchant lineage he belonged to engraved on it.
Before the General-Commander could answer Segaru yelled holding a fist up in rage.
"Don't you dare attack…" Feldon smacked the back of Segaru's head cutting him off. He smiled at the two men.
He made a small courteous bow, "General Commander Batril, Counsilor Gothral, We come from Gel'anr…" Segaru opened his mouth to speak but Aer'andil placed a hand on his shoulder and shook his head "no". "…we come from Gel'anr bearing news and counsel from the High-King and the Elves. Why are the city's defenses not in place?" Feldon concluded walking closer to the table but in an angle where the table did not stand between him and the two men.
The General Commander snorted, "Why would they be? We are not under any sort of attack. We agreed to not attack Zah Dah and Zah Dah will not attack us…simp.." The General Commander started saying in a very smug and arrogant tone but the Councilor cut him off with a look full of daggers. "Stop your blundering you foul!"
Feldon's colour had drained from his face, not from fear but from cold rage. "You…Zah Dah...? You make deals with Zah Dah? Their promises are ash in your eyes, their actions dust in the wind…You are traitors to your people and to your Kingdom. Your lives are forfeit; your souls belong to the abyss." Feldon declared. Before they could even swallow his words, he had leaped into action. In one swift motion, he had covered the distance between them and separated the General Commander's head clean off his shoulders. The Councilor only had time to raise his hands in terror before Feldon's sword descended on his hands chopping them off before separating his head off as well.
Feldon turned his head to look at the four guards in the room, blood dripping from his sword at his side.
"Decide now, attack me if Zah Dah is your ally. Fetch me Commander Merdoc if Eri'Adar is where your loyalties lie."
One of the soldiers, a towering beast of a human charged at Feldon with a roar. He had not taken three steps when he fell to his knees and then on the floor dead, two arrows sticking out of his temple, having penetrated his helmet. Feldon, Segaru and the other three soldiers looked at the grinning Aer'andil. He shrugged his shoulders, "What? You can't be the only one having fun around here." He said poking his tongue out at his mentor.
Feldon shook his head in disbelief and looked at the other soldiers.
"I'll go get Commander Merdoc." Two of them said at the same time. The third went to each of them and gave them their weapons back. "S…sir if I may ask how…how did you have your sword?" He asked seemingly awed and scared of the Elf.
"I never gave it away, you saw the illusion you wanted to believe. One such as I never goes anywhere without at least one weapon in hand." Feldon told him sheathing his sword.
"One such as you? An Elf?"
"No, a hunter of Darkness and fallen Elf-King." Feldon said as if he was talking about the weather or some other such mundane subject and sat in one of the chairs waiting for the Commander. The soldier remained rooted to the spot.
Aer'andil could not help himself from giggling at Feldon's answer and the soldier's reaction. He and Segaru sat on two of the chairs next to Feldon.
An hour later Commander Merdoc came in the door walking fast. He froze in his tracks. Then he grinned.
"You have saved me from a great hustle Feldon Leolin." The Commander said and continued seeing their four surprised faces. "Oh don't look so surprised, I am more than I seem, as are most in this city of mine."
"It would appear so. Commander Merdoc…you need to raise the city's defenses and mobilise the ar…" Feldon said.
"Giant army? Coming this way? Port of Raeri and fords of Elandros already decimated. Yes, I know, they do not call us "the city of the deceitful" for no reason. We do not only deceive others we sometimes must deceive each other. I have known the Councilor's grab for power, I have known about him poisoning the King and exiling the Crown Prince in his desire for the throne, and I have known about his misguided…alliance with Zah Dah for quite some time now, but you see…the army is loyal to me, to the King and to the Crown Prince. The city's defenses are up, the army is at the ready even if…ill equipped and undermanned to fight the army that is coming to us. Everything that could be done has been done but it all had to be done in a way that the General Commander, the Councilor and their agents of darkness in the city could not know it had been done." Merdoc said crossing his hands in front of his chest looking quite positively proud at himself.
There was silence for a few minutes until they digested what he had told them. Feldon spoke first.
"You are the Crown Prince's spymaster aren't you? How old are you? Almost fifty? I would say that you are more than his spymaster. You have known him for all your life, probably tutored him when he was but a child? And that relationship cost you further advancement in the army after the Councilor came to power. That however has not diminished or decreased your influence in the army. Why cause a coup if you know that the city and the army will obey you when the time comes. City of the deceitful indeed." Feldon said, now he himself also looking quite proud of his analysis and knowledge of the situation.
"You must be Gel'anr's shadow…the legend we have heard about a spymaster by the High-King's side who knows all…" Merdoc stated more than asked.
"I do not know all…I am sure there must be something I do not know…it is just that I don't know that I don't know it so it is as if it doesn't even exist. It is true though that the eyes and ears of Gel'anr reach far and wide. To fight shadows you must sometimes think like them and…behave like them."
Merdoc centered his attention on the boys.
"Aer'andil of Gel'anr I suppose? Honoured to meet you…." He started saying but then froze when he laid his eyes on Segaru.
"What is "he" doing within the walls of MY city!?" He asked in rage pointing at Segaru. "We accept no murderers here, out!"
Segaru didn't move an inch. "No? Really? I thought the city was full of them." He said in defensive arrogance.
Merdoc took a step closer, "Those who would advocate and defend the slaughter of an innocent princess to advance their pol…." Segaru cut off Merdoc.
"We NEVER killed your princess! And please! Eri'Adar is no innocent in that regard, shall I remind you of the Inari incident. Or the Treaty of the fallen daggers? Or Jagar the great?" Feldon stood up and in Merdoc's way placing a hand on the man's chest.
"Rodenians did not do this Commander."
"Oh no? Then why were their military insignias found all over the scene of the murder?" Merdoc asked trying to get around Feldon.
"They were not there to kill your princess, she was murdered yes but not by Rodenia."
"Prove it then! Unless you can prove it I'm sending his head back to Redonia with our regards." He said making Segaru shrink in his chair.
"I will prove it to you then, this is no time to be fighting amongst ourselves. Commander what do you know of "evi halith ial nodrith"?"
"Magic spell…allows you to see the memory of another if you have permission to do so." Merdoc replied taking a step back.
"Yes." Feldon said and then pointed his palms down on the marble floor. He recited something and the ground cracked and made an inward half-sphere hole. Feldon then filled it with water and turned the water into ice.
He whispered something and images appeared on the ice like a movie in a cinema theatre.
An elf stood crouched behind some bushes.
"Why are we observing this brother?"
"Evi valir has told us to watch her and we will." Someone else said. Aer'andil guessed him to be the owner of the memory. They all gathered around the hole in the ground, even Segaru who stood just slightly behind Feldon.
The elves watched as the caravan moved in the distance.
"Where are they going?"
"The Princess is going to meet with her father, she is to try and mediate for her brother the exiled Crown Prince, try to convince her father to pardon him."
The memory progressed. The terrain changed as the two elves followed the Royal caravan.
A man stood in front of the caravan and held out his hand for them to stop. The guard at the reins pulled on them until the horses stopped. "Let us pass." He said.
The man grinned, "Your lives are forfeit Councilor Gothral demands it so." He said. Out of the bushes, half a dozen men jumped and headed for the caravan.
"Brother! We must do something!" The elf said.
"No. We do not interfere in the affairs of men, we only observe for the existence of shadows and Darkness. Stay your weapons." The memory owner said.
The guards fought the assailants but it was soon evident that they would lose and fast. Just then, four armed soldiers on horseback wearing the colours of Rodenia charged at the assailants yelling. The scales had changed and the defenders were gaining momentum when that unknown man yelled an incantation and a mist spread over them all. Soon horrid screams followed. When the mist dissipated only the man stood, everyone else was dead. He dragged the dead Princess out and defiled her body. He proceeded to scatter more Rodenian insignias all over the place and then in a cracking sound he vanished.
The memory vanished. Feldon repaired the marble floor.
"Why…? Why did your scouts not intervene? They could have helped?" Segaru and Merdoc said almost simultaneously.
"We do not interfere in the affairs of men." Feldon said.
"Do you know how much suffering you could have prevented? For both Rodenia and Eri'Adar? Eri'Adar all but believes us monsters, that hatred will soon lead them to attack Rodenia, even more blood will be spilled…this hatred will fester on both sides and will never end…why not interfere?" Segaru spoke with bitter voice.
Feldon opened his mouth to speak but Aer'andil spoke first and with authority.
"No, while I know how you feel, having lived in a world settled only by humans, having believed myself to be human for twelve years I will now disagree with you. While I hate us having to keep secrets in this case they are required. Men, humans live no more than five to eight decades…Elves live up to twenty to fifty…thousand years maybe more. We cannot meddle in the affairs of men if they do not affect us. Humans come and go Elves remain. We observe, we record, and we fight when we must. No, no suffering would have been prevented, none at all. Eri'Adar, Rodenia… you two will be at each other's throats no matter what, you have been since your creation a mere five or so thousand years ago. For trade rights, for increased profit…that is what humans do, you quarrel and fight and spill blood for profit, this has not changed and is not likely to change. Elves will not take part in that. Even without the murder of the Princess eventually, the merchant guilds will lead your cities to war, other nations may join your sides or wait in the shadows until you are both weakened so they can attack and take wealth and ground from you. If the Elves take sides in that it will create hatred towards us, bias, eventually that hatred will fester and the humans will attack us. No, the Elves will take no part in the affairs of men, and that is something that will continue with my reign…when that starts even if other things will change…greatly."
There was silence, long silence.
Merdoc spoke first. "While I do not…necessarily agree with you, I can…understand where you come from, for now though we stand as allies against Zah Dah."
"The Elves are allies to all that stand against the Darkness, and have always been Eri'Adar's allies but we will not interfere in the affairs of men." Aer'andil said.
"We should inspect the city's defenses and the army." Feldon said. They all walked outside. Merdoc whistled to a group of soldiers and spoke in Eri'Adar's language.
"The jackals are dead, raise the flags and the proud men of Eri'Adar, the enemy comes, we will stand." He said. The soldiers saluted and started running yelling that lines repeatedly. It was as if the city was transforming before their eyes. Citizens started blocking off their windows with planks; placing bags of sand in front of their doors, smoke from the chimneys put out. They were getting ready for the siege.
"Feldon, why are they putting out the fires?" Aer'andil asked pointing at a chimney.
"The enemy will probably use flaming projectiles in their trebuchets but if they do not, having open fires may cause fire to spread when the city starts getting pummeled by the enemy fire, raging fire is not a good thing to have to deal with in a siege. It is a precautionary measure, if but a pointless one if the enemy uses flaming ammunition." Feldon said as they walked, following Merdoc to the walls.
The walls looked nothing like when they had entered the city a mere few hours ago. Now soldiers stood on them straight holding arrows and pikes in perfect horisontal file formation, banners with the flag of Eri'Adar placed every so often between them. The siege weapons on the walls and the towers armed, manned and pointing out. On the inside, more rows of archers and wizards stood on attention as the Commander passed by them.
"What other defenses does the city have?" Feldon enquired.
"A few. Come with me." Merdoc replied and led them up the stairs to the ramparts. It was not visible from the outside but on the inside Aer'andil could see the ramparts were built in such a way that it made it tougher for those outside to see those firing from behind them. Solid granite was then reinforced with thick steel plates forming upwards pointing arrowheads with a separating void in the middle so that archers, Speakers and wizards could fire at the oncoming enemy.
"Our walls are sturdy and full of deception, the moat below us has no water inside, instead it has fast-acting corrosive acid, our catapults and trebuchets have explosive ammunition and in case they can intercept it mid-flight the ammunition fragments and becomes a million explosive shards that showers the enemy. Our arrows have barbed heads that cannot be removed from the target without causing extensive damage and internal bleeding, the arrow shafts are enchanted with magical spells that cause them to explode after embedding themselves in a target be it flesh, ground or anything else. Starting from a hundred meters outside the moat there are canals hidden from view going every one hundred meters up to ten kilometers. Each of the canals contains an extremely flammable substance. Expose to anything hotter than the sun, it explodes and burns for hours, try to put it out with water and it burns hotter. The canals are not connected so setting off one does not endanger the others. The same applies to the streets inside the city. You will never see an Eri'Adar civilian or solider walk on the streets during a siege. Finally, the city connects underground to passageways that run all the way to the mountains to the north and exit in various points. We will never run out of food or water as we have a huge underground water reservoir hidden beneath the city. It can last for three years and each time it rains it fills and it rains a lot in Eri'Adar." The Commander spoke analysing to them the defenses of the city.
"How many soldiers do you have?" Feldon continued.
"Twenty thousand strong, but with a draft we can reach up to double that." Merdoc said proudly.
"Not nearly enough if the oncoming army of Zah Dah is what I fear it to be. Call the draft, any man or woman between the ages of fifteen and fifty that can hold a weapon are to report to the armoury and arm themselves. I would have those that cannot fight escape to the underground tunnels and to the mountains. If Eri'Adar falls someone should be left alive to rebuild." Feldon said grimly.
"It will be done." Merdoc said and yelled orders to an officer who was nearby.
"Should we come out of this alive remind me to buy you all ale in the broken flagon, best ale in the kingdom!" Merdoc told them and departed.
Feldon chuckled. He knew the ale from the broken flagon. It was dark, spicy, and moody and two pints could fell a beast of a man.
Feldon inspected the fortifications some more. He spoke to the officers, telling them to build barricades in key junctions in the city as well as within the city Gates, and to have their magicians and Speakers place protective and offensive wards on the walls, towers and as much of the city as possible starting from key and sensitive locations.
As the sun begun its descend the three of them sat by a hearth in a dorm in the barracks given to the three of them for the night by the new General Commander of the city, Merdoc.
"Feldon…" Aer'andil spoke breaking the silence that had fallen over them while they ate. "What do you know of Naire Oira?"
Feldon took a deep breath and released it making the fire in the center dance and flicker.
"Naire Oira, he is one of the vilest of the Seven Generals of Zah Dah and that says a lot considering that Gilthian is one of them as well. Naire Oira is to my knowledge the leader of the Seven and right hand of the Master of Zah Dah or as we recently learned, Olan. Naire Oira though is not his real name. His real name I know it not, not all of it anyways.
"Naire Oira…he was your grandfather's kill." He told Aer'andil and continued his eyes returning to the fire in the center.
"Seventy thousand years ago the area where the flat spires are now was inhabited by humans. Each spire had a kingdom on it. They were resilient and inventive people living in remote places with nature always at their heels and with predators that can make even their distant descendants that inhabit the area today shy away in terror. There were five kingdoms, four in the flat spires and one in the isolated north, in the north most tip above the spires. The five kingdoms or Svegaj Narun as the natives called them only had two avenues of trade, the city of Iaven, today's Lavonia and the fifth Kingdom to the north called Nakesh.
"Almost nothing remains of the culture and language of the Five Kingdoms and what little remains can only be found in Lavonia but I am getting ahead of myself.
"Nakesh was that most northern Kingdom and it was the wealthiest and most powerful one because of its sea trade with other human cities as well as some trade with the Elves. The Royal Family had four sons and a daughter. The daughter they married to another kingdom in the far south. That kingdom no longer exists either but it would have been near today's Fadr. The first son died under quite mysterious circumstances that intrigued the High-King Heldon. He wanted to send someone to investigate and observe. His son Urelas, a member of the Hunters of Darkness, young eager and willing to prove himself to his father volunteered to go. The High-King had some objections but his son's persistence won him over.
"By the time Urelas arrived at Nakesh the second son had been executed, the King died in a tragic hunting accident and the third son had abdicated to the forth son. His name has not survived the aeons or at least if it is in the Chronicles of Darkness we have never been told what it is. All I know is that the Royal Family's name was Beden or in the now long forgotten language of that land "The Hawks."
"Urelas was given an audience by the child-King, the forth son who proceeded to speak with lofty and evasive words. It was soon understood by the Crown Prince that the child-King had undone his whole family, except his sister who was out of his reach, to get the throne and the power that comes with it. As criminal as that was, Urelas in his naïve youth thought it to be within the affairs of men and did not inquire or investigate further, as to how the child-King had killed his family. He left Nakesh and returned to Gel'anr. Life went on and for almost two hundred years, nothing came from Nakesh, no trade, no news no reports of any kind.
"Two hundred years later a mysterious force led by a wizard of fire attacked Hakon, one of the Five Kingdoms. Within less than a month Hakon fell. The reports from the few surviving refugees were inconclusive and contradictive at best so the High-King did nothing. A month later Turvion, was attacked and within the first few weeks of the siege the defenders surrendered. Some managed to escape most were slaughtered. High-King Heldon ordered a group of Darkness Hunters to go and investigate the reports of black magic use he had received from the area after Turvion was attacked. Urelas was amongst those dispatched to the flat spires.
"When they arrived Natosh had already fallen to the advancing army. An army that Urelas and the rest of the Hunters of Darkness found out to consist of undead creatures, fallen warriors and creatures of darkness. Urelas being the highest in rank of those sent out to investigate sent some of his brothers back to report to the High-King and he and the rest followed the advancing horde to its next target of Calorth. Planting traps and misdirecting the horde and its fire wizard leader they managed to delay their arrival to Calorth giving time to his father to muster the army.
"Calorth fell but on the subsequent siege of Iaven the Elven army arrived and a fierce battle ensued. The combination of the armies of Elves and Iaven won the day and Urelas killed the fire wizard that called himself Naire Oira scourge of the North. Urelas travelled to the Five Kingdoms and met only with death and ruin. Nothing remained of their former glory. Nakesh too was too corrupted, too much darkness, its citizens turned to vile monsters and shades of their former humanity. The few refugees from the Five Kingdoms settled in what is today Lavonia and in some cities that no longer exist. Spread too thin, their culture, traditions and language vanished and was slowly forgotten until now stands only myth and legend." Feldon concluded.
There was silence for a while with only the cracking of the fire to disturb their musings.
"Atrik leads the army that my father will face…what is his story?" Aer'andil asked, his voice betraying his emotions. He feared for his father.
"Do you remember when we arrived in Gel'anr and my son told you of the Matalok campaign?"
"Atrik is Matalok. High-King Malaroth slew him. Now he is back." Feldon said. "We should get some sleep, the siege will not be easy or over with fast." Feldon lay back on the floor and closed his eyes.
"My father…the battle must have started by now…I don't think the Speakers of Dara made it in time…" Aer'andil stated more to himself than anyone else. Feldon said nothing but behind his closed eyes, his mind raced thinking of what he could not tell to Aer'andil.
Segaru surprised him. He got up, walked to him, sat next to him and hugged him. Nothing was said between them, there was no need for words. Aer'andil let go of a deep breath and looked up to the changing teenager.
"Segaru…can you sleep with me…I don't mean it…like "that"…just sleep close to me, I don't think I want to be alone tonight." Aer'andil whispered and Segaru nodded.
* * *
South of Lake Natlarn, south of Lavonia.
"My liege, the army is ready, the enemy approaches." A messenger told Liandras.
"Very well then. Call the Kings of men and Elves, we ride." Liandras said and unsheathed his blade. He mounted his horse and rode to his soldiers of Gel'anr.
The camp came to life as soldiers and officers run to their posts.
"My High-King, news has come of Dara, the civil war is ended, Lucas Bera…" King Lados started telling him but Liandras nodded and cut him off.
"I know, their army won't be here in time. We need to fight this as we are." Liandras said. He looked sad.
"Why not pull back and face them behind the multi-layered fortifications of Lavonia?" King Lados asked.
"No, things are as they should, my old friend, we shall see what must happen, for now we have a battle to fight." Liandras said and started his horse to the line.
The horsemen of the north would attack first, create an irritable charge, the infantry would come in behind them and make sure the broken enemy lines would not regroup. Magicians would provide cover both Cavalry and infantry, as archers would pummel the enemy with volley after volley of arrows. Elven magic and Speaker users would attack the enemy and the heavy slower infantry would protect the flanks.
The lines formed, weapons drawn, banners declaring who stood against the Darkness. The Kings gave their speeches to their men to boost the moral.
An hour later Liandras raised his left hand, "Archers aim…fire!" A rainstorm of arrows launched as both human and Elven archers launched their missiles. The blood marches meant that the enemy soldiers were moving very slowly through the mud and murky shallow waters, making them ideal moving targets. "Fire at will!" Liandras yelled.
He waited until the enemy army was almost entirely out of the swamp. "Cavalry, begin trod." He yelled. Four thousand horses started walking.
When they were half way through to the enemy ranks. He lowered his hand, "Infantry attack, cavalry charge!" Ten lines of cavalry started galloping, the riders lowering lances and unsheathing weapons, some fired arrows at the approaching enemy soldiers.
Liandras and the cavalry came closer to the enemy ranks, close enough for them to see the enemy army consisted of corrupted beasts, men working for Zah Dah, creatures of Darkness and much to Liandras' terror, adalnials. His face drained of colour he took a deep breath and unleashed a torrent of black magic directly at the first line of adalnial he could see. He knew from personal experience that adalnials were creatures of Dark spiritum and certain types of black magic could kill them by breaking the bonds that held them together.
The Cavalry fell on the enemy ranks and the battle started.
* * *
"The enemy arrives!" Shouts awakened them. They run to the battlements. What they saw made their blood freeze. A mixture of men and Orkhavocs poured out from the southwest of Eri'Adar slowly encircling the city.
"Holy mother of…." Aer'andil's voice trailed as the enemy army came and came and there seemed to be no end to it.
"Sir, do we fire arrows at them?" A soldier asked Feldon.
"No, the majority will miss and we will miss them when we can really make use of them, stay your bows for now and wait." Feldon replied.
Almost two hours later, they were still pouring in when Segaru yelled in a voice full of fear. "There! Dragons!" they looked to the direction were Segaru was pointing Scores of dragons were coming behind the main army of Zah Dah, flying above them a huge black dragon with a hooded figure on his back.
"Droholost…Naire…they are here…." Aer'andil whispered.
"Courage Aer'andil, courage, this will be our stand." Feldon told him placing a hand on his shoulder giving him a light affectionate squeeze.
"I am not letting them past me, Norion, Tha'ala…no they are not getting past me…us." Aer'andil thought and tightened his palms into fists.
Merdoc came and motioned for Feldon to follow him.
"I am afraid I have grave news. The King is dead, but I dare not tell the soldiers in the eve of battle, their morale will plummet." Merdoc told him.
"The soldiers are panicking already, and I do not blame them, we have twenty thousand soldiers, the enemy surpasses that by a score and a league, we need someone to inspire them…thankfully there is a reason I sent Merol and Lucas to find your exiled prince and brought me and Aer'andil here, we just have to wait for it." Feldon told him almost grinning. Merdoc did not understand what Feldon meant but he could do nothing but trust him.
As the time passed an increasing number of soldiers begun whispering about, voicing their fears that it was hopeless.
As night came, the enemy had fully encircled the city two or three times and was preparing their siege weapons.
"The city can stand a siege for months, but it has never been besieged by an army like this!" One soldier said.
"We will all die! Zah Dah is just too powerful." Another one said.
"There is no hope, we will all die. Look at them, they are too many!"
"Feldon…can you make sure my voice is heard throughout the entire city and outside?" Aer'andil asked him. Feldon suppressed a smile and nodded his affirmative.
Segaru turned his head to see him, something in Aer'andil's voice made the fuzz on the back of his head, stand up as if touched by electricity.
"Some things require logic, other passion, watch General Commander how a child can inspire your men to surpass themselves." Feldon told the General Commander and whispered something in his language.
Aer'andil climbed up the wall and up the tower so that all could see him in the immediate vicinity. A number of soldiers pointed in his way and whispered.
Aer'andil lowered his hood and removing the crown prince's crown from his backpack, he wore it.
More whispers and gasps followed.
"People of Eri'Adar, I am Aer'andil, son of Liandras High-King in Gel'anr, of the line of Glothoin, I am the Crown Prince of all Elves and here today I will stand with you. Yes, I will not lie to you men of Eri'Adar the situation seems to be one of no hope. We stand alone. The hosts of Elves and Men are far away, too far to be of any help. The enemy is legion and its multitudes are smashing on our doors. Yes, they outnumber us a thousand to one and their ways are wicked and evil but I fear them not. They have no soul. They have no passion, no cause to will victory. They will not defeat us."
As Aer'andil spoke, the city fell silent and ever so slowly like a stream in spring filling with water the moods of the soldiers begun to change.
"Men of Eri'Adar there is but only one choice before you. You will FIGHT! You will fight for your kingdom. You will fight for your lands. You will fight for your families, you will fight for your sisters, for your brothers, your fathers, your sons and daughters, for your wives and loved ones and you will not lose! You cannot lose or all you hold dear will be lost to Darkness. So let the craven, soulless come! Let them break on our doors for they will break against indomitable will and irresistible force."
Now with every emphasis Aer'andil gave on a word more and more cheered and raised their fists, swords, and spears as high as they could in the night sky.
"We will not move for them. For every one of us they kill we will kill a thousand of theirs. We cannot lose! We cannot surrender. We can only fight and we will fight with spear, sword, bow, magic, spirit, with our bear hands if we need to but WE WILL FIGHT! WE WILL NOT LOSE! SO LET THEM COME, TASTE OUR METTLE FOR YOU ARE THE MEN OF ERI'ADAR AND YOU CANNOT AND WILL NOT LOSE! NOW FIGHT!"
They cheered and cried for what seemed an eternity until Feldon's voice resounded over the city.
"Archers, arm night arrows…" A few minutes later came the next command, "aim! LET LOOSE!" The sounds of bowstrings releasing and arrows flying could be heard all around them as waves of arrows covered the night sky and the bright moon above them.
It had begun. The deciding battle of the war in the south was underway.
The black dragon reared its head and let loose a huge column of black-red fire.
"Zigush Nivaj Glughj!" Naire said. The screams of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and beasts filled the night as the enemy charged.
"Unleash hell on them!" Naire told those handling the catapults. In an instant the night became as bright as day as catapults and trebuchets let loose their flaming projectiles.
"TAKE COVER!" Screams sounded all over the city as the flaming stones started landing all over the city. Explosions and rocked the city as fires broke out.
"Catapults! Fire corrosive munitions!" Merdoc yelled and looked at Feldon, "City of the deceitful remember? I wouldn't tell you all of our defenses." He grinned.
"What do they do?" Segaru asked and ducked as a catapult projectile whistled above their heads and landed on the street behind them demolishing a house.
"It is acid, anything it touches, metal, flesh, anything, it melts it down." Merdoc said and threw a javelin down at the attacking soldiers. It caught a huge looking Orkhavoc in the belly throwing it back dead.
For the next few hours, the two armies exchanged catapult, trebuchet and archer fire. Feldon did not waste Eri'Adar's catapult ammunition on killing soldiers that could move out of the way but rather on hitting the enemy siege weapons and landed dragons.
Naire gave an order and heavy-looking beasts begun moving forth siege towers and ladders.
"Get the towers! The towers!" Merdoc and Feldon yelled pointing at the siege towers coming closer to them.
Feldon took one look at the beasts pushing the siege towers and pointed at the nearest archers.
"Aim for their horns! They are hollow and will make them turn mad when broken! AIM FOR THEIR HORNS!" He yelled and launched an energy projectile of his own at one of the beasts smashing its horn. The beast reared and begun stampeding everything at its path.
Aer'andil looked at the beasts, "What are they?!"
"Rahaks, usually harmless herbivores, get their horns! Pikemen, when the ladders and towers touch the walls use your pikes, kill as many as you can before they climb the towers!" Merdoc answered and threw another javelin at the nearest Rahak. It missed its horn and embedded itself at the beast's neck killing it.
The nearest Orkhavoc soldier cut off the beast's reins and started pulling the ladder himself.
Aer'andil grabbed his bow and three arrows from the quivers at his waist.
He aimed and let loose one arrow after another. Two found their targets and broke two different horns.
The Rahaks shook their heads and started running. One pushing one of the siege towers ran straight into the siege tower demolishing it. The screams of the falling soldiers filled the air. The Rahak fell on the Rahak in front of it causing both of them to fall on the next siege tower, crumbling it over. Before the maddened Rahak could do anything else, a towering Orkhavoc grabbed its head and snapped it killing it.
The second Rahak carrying a siege ladder now maddened turned one hundred and eighty degrees and ran into the Orkhavoc battalion behind it causing a few fatalities before an Orkhavoc killed it.
The third arrow embedded itself in the eye of another Rahak.
An Orkhavoc soldier cried something in a language Aer'andil could not understand. Other Orkhavoc soldiers walked in front of the Rahaks and held their heavy wide metal shields up on top of their heads effectively covering their hollow horns from arrow attacks.
"Bugger! That guy must be an officer! Take him down! Catapults aim for the Rahaks! They can protect them against arrows and javelins but not against catapult fire!" Merdoc told his messaging officer.
He raised the small flags above his head in an order relaying General Commander Merdoc's orders throughout the city.
Aer'andil grinned. He extended his hand and threw a fireball at the Orkhavoc officer. He raised his shield and deflected the fireball harmlessly to the sky then picked up a javelin from the ground and threw it at Aer'andil. He ducked for cover and the javelin flew off inside the city.
"Oh no you don't, you're mine!" Aer'andil said and pulled back the bowstring with two arrows. He let loose the first and then whispered, "Impale" on the second in Elvish pulling back the bowstring. The Orkhavoc officer pulled his shield up again and the first arrow embedded itself there. Just as the officer laughed, the second arrow broke past the shield and buried itself between his eyes. The officer fell back lifeless. Aer'andil smirked. "Not laughing now are you?" He cried earning him a dark scowling look from Feldon.
"The multitudes of Zah Dah are descending upon us and you're cracking jokes? Kill more if you have the time to make jokes." Feldon told him and sent a torrent of fireballs down the incoming soldiers.
The first of the towers and ladders touched the walls.
"Droholost's minions, attack." Naire ordered the dragons.
They spread their wings and off they were.
"Shit, the dragons are attacking, aim for their underbelly, neck, eyes, and wings everywhere else it is all armoured scales!" Aer'andil yelled to those near him. General Commander Merdoc relayed that as orders through his messenger officer.
The first dragons flew overhead spewing fire on the walls and the first buildings in the city filling the city with screams and smell of burning flesh.
"Archers! Fire!" Feldon ordered and rows of arrows ascended the skies biting the dragons like a myriad hornets. Two dragons fell down crashing in the street and buildings below. Others pulled back injured. The soldiers below cheered and yelled.
Orkhavoc soldiers came out of the siege towers and placed their shields as cover against enemy projectiles allowing their comrades to climb up in relevant safety. They poured onto the walls from the ladders and the siege towers. The siege was fully underway and it was not looking good. No matter how many they killed more came up the siege towers and ladders.
A battering ram moved slowly closer to the city gates.
A dragon flew over him unleashing a torrent of fire just within the walls. The yells and screams of agony filled the air as soldiers burned alive.
"A few more hours of this…" A young looking soldier whispered but Feldon heard him.
"Hours? This can go for days, have strength and look to your sides for your comrades, they will save your life and you will save theirs or you will all fall." Feldon told him and slapped his back in a supportive manner.
The soldier nodded and looked to his sides to find his comrades.
For three days, the siege went on without sign of it ending. The walls held and the defenders slew wave after wave of enemy soldiers, men and Orkhavocs alike, injured and killed dragons but there was no end to it. The city was burning, the catapult fire would not stop and everyone was getting tired whereas the enemy seemed not to need sleep, food or water.
Aer'andil could feel every bone in his body ache, his mind screaming for sleep, his eyes demanding to close but onwards he pressed, there on the walls fighting alongside the soldiers of Eri'Adar against the multitudes of Zah Dah.
On the eve of the sixth day of the siege, a soldier atop a tower called out for attention. "Look! There to the south! An army approaches!"
"Another one approaches from the north!" Another soldier in a different tower called out.
Segaru grabbed a javelin and launched it at a dragon as he passed overhead. It found its mark and went through the thin, veined membrane of its left wing shuttering one of the wing's main bones in the process. The dragon howled and crashed on a burning building in the city. Soldiers run to kill him before he could tear the city asunder. Even with a broken wing, he was still a threat as long as he drew breath.
Segaru launched his fist in the air with an ecstatic look on his face but his joy was short lived. An Orkhavoc attacked him. He stepped back to avoid the sword and fell on his back. The Orkhavoc continued to attack him thrust after thrust with Segaru rolling on the floor avoiding him. The Orkhavoc raised his hands, both holding on the blade and as he lowered it, Segaru rolled on the opposite side finding himself under the Orkhavoc's legs. He launched his blade upwards and run him through, he then twisted his hand and pulled outwards effectively slicing the soldier almost in half.
Covered in blood and other stuff he got up on his feet and launched himself on the next Orkhavoc soldier fully caught up in the battle's bloodlust. Adrenaline coursing through his veins.
"Look, the army to the south is not moving against us, that's some heavy cavalry! They are moving to catch the Orkhavocs on their flanks! General Commander Merdoc! Aid them! The catapults! Disrupt the Orkhavoc pikemen with the catapults remaining!" Aer'andil shouted pointing at the charging heavy cavalry. Covering both animal and soldier a heavy single plated armour from head to toe made them appear a formidable enemy indeed. They were not mere cavalry they were moving tanks, they would not be able to turn but anything in their path unless solid wall would break from their charge. They held long lances and Aer'andil could see maces, flails and long swords hanging from the horses. They would break their lances at the first row of enemy ranks and then pick weapon after weapon until either enemy or rider and horse lay dead upon the battlefield.
Merdoc nodded and had his officer relay the orders.
"The army to the north, I know those colours…the dogs of Yaria have come here…why here and not the northern battlefield?" Feldon spoke to no one in particular.
"What kind of an army does Zah Dah have battling the combined host of Men and Elves in the north that it does not need Yaria's army joining them?" Segaru wondered as he sliced yet another Orkhavoc soldier down.
"Lucas…I hope you've left Dara and are on your way with the exiled prince…I do not know how long we can hold them off…" Aer'andil thought. The sun was rising behind them blood red and sad.
"Enough of this. End them, trebuchets fire Olan's might!" Naire yelled. Some minutes later, the enemy trebuchets and catapults fired their first volley. Aer'andil and Feldon could see them with their enhanced Elven vision, the projectiles were barrels, large, thick barrels.
"I have a baaad feeling about th…" Aer'andil started saying when one of the barrels exploded on a wall on the other side of the city. The explosion could be seen from anywhere on the battlefield as the wall exploded and shattered in pieces, sending boulders and men in every direction.
Another one was fast coming to their side of the wall. Aer'andil lost no time thinking; he grabbed Segaru's hand and jumped on a ladder, cutting off its supports holding it on the wall. The ladder fell backwards against the enemy soldiers.
Feldon launched a fireball at the nearest barrel exploding it mid-air. The shockwave pushed them back cracking the softer of the stones on the wall.
The ladder fell on the ground just passed where Aer'andil and Segaru knew was the moat.
"Wizards! Launch at the barrels, get them before they impact the walls! General Commander, why haven't the moat traps opened? Or the canals outside the city?" Feldon spoke.
Eri'Adar's wizards started firing at the incoming barrels. One of them exploded mid-air, two more close to it ignited.
"That's what I tried to tell you days ago, General Commander Batril must have had them disabled…I've sent soldiers to try and open them up but they have yet to report back. A single flaming projectile is more than enough to set them off when the trap doors open." Merdoc replied as he hacked an enemy's skull wide open with his battleaxe. He detached the battleaxe and spiraling around he hacked off another Orkhavoc's head clean off.
"You must get them open or the city will fall." Feldon said grabbing the spear from his back. He took a few steps back.
"I know! Where are you going?" Merdoc asked him looking weirdly at him.
"My charge has just jumped in the midst of enemy lines, I am going after them, do not give them an inch, do not surrender the walls, do not fall back or Eri'Adar will fall, get the wizards and archers on the towers and rain death upon them." Feldon told Merdoc and pointing the blade of the spear downwards, he jumped off the wall.
Aer'andil and Segaru landed amidst the lines of the Orkhavocs, the heavy siege ladder killing those under it when it fell.
"Follow me! Our best chance is to reach the friendly army." Aer'andil told Segaru and started launching magic spell after magic spell at the enemy soldiers as he ran towards the charging heavy cavalry.
Segaru nodded and followed him hacking at those coming at sword length.
Feldon picked a target and skewed it with the spear before rolling on the ground. Standing up he whirled the spear around cutting off hands, heads and slicing throats.
"Aer'andil, Segaru wait!" He yelled but the two boys were too far and the sounds of the battle around them too loud. He groaned and ran after them slicing away at the enemy ranks.
One of the cavalrymen, obviously their leader by the feathers on his helmet and coat of arms on his chest plate, yelled an order and in absolute discipline, the cavalry changed from line formation to wedge with him in the middle. He then called another order and in one synchronized movement, the lances came down to the level of the horses' necks.
"Nirgirth ji Oghelle virdorigh!" The cavalry leader cried out and the cavalrymen cheered and smashed against the Orkhavoc lines. Horses fell on the ground, Orkhavoc soldiers stampeded around, body parts flying about as lances broke on shields, armour and bodies. In one movement, they dropped the lances and grabbed for other weapons.
Aer'andil rolled on the floor to avoid a shield bashing from an Orkhavoc soldier. Coming up he picked an arrow from his waist quivers stabbed the Orkhavoc at his neck before pulling the arrow back, on the bowstring and releasing it. The arrow flew the short distance between him and the Orkhavoc and pierced his eye coming out of the back of his head.
"Piercing enchantments, works every single time!" Aer'andil said turning around to bury the next arrow in an incoming Orkhavoc's eye.
He turned around again to see a huge sword descending on his head just as a cavalry soldier hacked at the Orkhavoc holding it severing his head from his shoulders. Aer'andil looked at the man and nodded his appreciation. The man extended an arm and nodded to his back. Aer'andil made to grab it but the man along with the horse were violently lifted off the ground and thrown away, when the dust cleared Droholost stood between him Segaru and the rest of the friendly army.
"The line of Glothoin ends this day." Naire told him and extending his hand launched a black fireball at him. Aer'andil dodged it and launched an arrow at Naire who just waved his hand and the arrow burst into flames.
"There is no hope child, prepare to die as my master kills your father." Naire laughed and Droholost swung his left foreleg at him. Aer'andil jumped back. Feldon was too far away and no one else looked willing to fight the titanic black dragon and his Zah Dah General. He was alone against them.
* * *
Liandras felt his horse falling and with an agile movement, he jumped off it and on an enemy creature hacking it in two halves. Searching around in the battlefield, he could see his host slowly but steadily losing ground, "Boden, can you see the Dark General?" Liandras asked his fellow Elven King who nodded no as he launched a Speaker rune at the nearest adalnial. The adalnial shrieked a blood-curling sound and fell dead.
Liandras felt it, as he turned around he felt the Darkness descend upon him then he saw the black mist solidify into a hooded figure holding a two-handed greatsword with a giant red jewel at the center of the cross-guard. The blade flowed like a river jagged and curved, black with strange runes engraved on it. The figure's head hidden behind hood and mask.
"Now my pretties, now we end this." An otherworldly hissing voice spoke and the jewel glowed deep black-red.
"Olan, surrender now, lay down your weapons and your execution will be a clean one." Liandras told him pointing at him with his blade.
"Hello….uncle, long time no see, this day you die." The figure said and laughed.
"It…it cannot be…I killed thee." Liandras replied in disbelief.
"Indeed…and yet here I am…enough words." He said and launched himself at Liandras who holding his sword with one hand fired a magical projectile at his dead-but-not-dead nephew.
He laughed and dematerialised to rematerialise behind Liandras.
Liandras turned with swift Elven agility. Their blades met with a metal on metal sound and sparks flying about. Liandras deflected the blade to his left and raising it above his head he made a half-circle to Olan's head who just chuckled and deflected the blade with his free hand before smashing a dark spiritum rune on Liandras' chest. He rolled back and fired another magic spell at Olan who just stood there and absorbed the spell in his blade before firing a black magic spell at Liandras. He dashed to the right and launched his blade at Olan who again seemingly without any effort deflected Liandras' blade with his own. The swordfight went on for hours until Liandras just lowered his blade.
"So be it then, create your doom… Kirvakir thargor Olan." He told Olan. He felt Olan's black blade pierce his chest and closed his eyes. "My son…I love you." He thought picturing Aer'andil's sweet face in his mind one last time.
Olan removed the blade and Liandras fell to his knees and then the ground dead. Olan laughed maniacally.
"The High-King! The High-King has fallen! Protect his body! To the High-King!" Boden yelled and moved towards Olan and Liandras' body.
Olan stopped laughing as a voice sounded in his head. "You are of no use to me anymore." He clutched his head dropping the black blade for a moment shrieking in what could only be described as agony. He straightened up and grabbed his blade.
"The deed is done, retreat to Zah Dah, let doom open there." Olan's voice filled the battlefield. Sheathing the black blade he vanished in a black mist as his army started retreating towards Zah Dah.
* * *
Aer'andil was ready to fire his next arrow at Naire when he doubled over in such a pain, as he had never felt before. Feldon fell to his knees from the same pain, clutching his temples. It was not so much a physical pain, but one of the mind. It was loss magnified a thousand fold and excruciating pain combined. Aer'andil could feel every fiber of his being in pain, his mind, his spirit screaming inside his head. He fell to his knees as Droholost shouted in hysterical laughter.
"Thy father is dead child. DEAD! Can you feel the crippling pain coursing through your mind, through every fiber of your pathetic existence? Is it not an elation of pleasure?" Naire said atop Droholost.
"Droholost…" Naire said in absolute bliss and pointed at Aer'andil with his sword. "Bathe him in thy Wyrm's fire." Droholost reared his head before launching it forward unleashing his black dragon's breath.
Aer'andil felt the fire surround him but he cared not, he felt encompassed in complete peace as he stared at the void.
Someone screamed his name in the background in agony, a child's voice.
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