The Lord Marshal of Caxtla sat high on top of his battlehorn, gazing across the swamp below him. Plate armor that had once shone brightly now had a dull hue as if something had been eating away at it, slowly pealing back layers of metal and protection. Months before, Talon's tenure had started with wonderment, even a certain excitement over the lost continent. Now his spirit felt as his armor looked, worn and exposed. Wonderment had faded and been replaced by a hard earned understanding of what dangers could hide behind any of the great, twisted trees here.
This morning in particular, his spiked full plate shoulder guards, crafted in the forges of Andruk, seemed to weigh heavier when he gazed on the swamp below. The verdant green landscape of Yssam was broken here by an infection, a gray-green boil on the face of a continent teaming with life. The Orc Warlord had seen many tours, and even more swamps, but never one that looked so foul. His armor had been full of pockmarks and scars before the ferns and heat; blood and sweat stains marked the old leather under his breastplate, blood from slain foes and fallen friends, but the armor had never felt heavier than it did now in the humid jungles of Yssam, when he looked upon that swamp. Talon exchanged a glance with his second, the tall Mirdain standing next to him, knowing they dare not try and wade through it in such heavy armor. They would sink in the mud.
The arrival of Aristos and his Mirdain guard had lifted his spirits for a time, but the task at hand had born them down again. Since their arrival at Ehetil two nights ago, all of his Mirdain captains had agreed that Ehetil's swamp felt different and wrong
. The omen of the blood moon had, up until now, been a false portend.
Since the council had met at Caxtla and heard the warning delivered, Talon had suspended further incursion into Yssam. The keep had been garrisoned, the supply rooms stocked, and the wall guard doubled, yet nothing had happened. The blood moon had shown brightly, but it only brought an eerie crimson glow to the parapets and roofs of the city. Nothing more. Talon was the fifteenth Warlord to rise from Dragrenoth, the ancestral home of the Oomlock clan, and there would not have been fourteen before him if not for their natural caution. Talon knew that the jungles of Yssam, seething with life, yet now tainted by the foul scent of the Undead, would remain long after their outpost in Caxtla. But the jungle would not reclaim Caxtla under his watch; while he still drew breath, he would see that no Undead trespassed on its walls.
So they had waited.
The warning of the blood moon had caused him to prepare for a siege, but no threat had appeared for three long weeks.
Talon now stood at the head of the first expedition into the interior of Yssam since the red moon shone. They had camped at their outpost in Ehetil for two days, exploring the surrounding area, searching for signs of more Undead, but up until now they had avoided the swamp to the North. He took a few more moments to study the quagmire in front of him. The color of the stagnant water reminded him of a rotten aubergine, a deep, dark purple that looked like it could hide any manner of creature. The Orc Warlord had been raised around such water. It did not frighten him. He could not say the same for the Mirdain captains arrayed alongside him, except maybe Giannes.
Aristos Giannes had broken as many swords as Talon himself and shed as much blood. Aristos looked determined, as always, although Talon knew he had been uncomfortable camping so close to the swamp. When they arrived, Aristos had warned him of a presence at the edge of his senses. Of all the mages Talon had ever known, Aristos was the strongest tied to the land. He had grown up under the shadow of Eryasil, the great tree that stood sentinel over Beladin's Rest. The water he shared with that tree had seemingly gifted him with senses beyond that of a normal adept. When Aristos told Talon that something stirred in the swamp ahead, he tended to believe him.
As if reading Talon's dark mood and worried thoughts, Aristos unclipped his omrog from the leather holster on his saddle. "That going to bother you riding?" he asked.
Talon carefully shook out his left arm, testing the strength in it. The field dressing and stitches were growing tight around the gash the wildling had given him two days ago when they first arrived at the camp. They had known that a forest dweller, a Mirdain hunter, occasionally inhabited their camp in Ehetil. They had seen him once before. Aristos had called the vagabond crazed, his mind probably taken by the heat. Talon suspected they had only scared him while he had been sleeping. In his frenzy, the wildling had jumped from a tree and struck at Talon, darting into the underbrush and disappearing in a rustle of ferns and insane laughter.
"It will be fine," Talon said flatly, "Review."
And with that, Aristos held up his omrog to signal the review.
Even the stifling, moist air of the jungle could not suppress the sound of true forged steel being drawn, as the other captains arrayed alongside drew their weapons. The shrill sound of selentine blades leaving scabbards was complemented by the hum of neithal and the whispers of veilron.
Talon turned his battlehorn and surveyed the company. Elswyr Reimzad had elected to ready his bow instead of draw his sword. Talon nodded to him. Elswyr was the son of a prominent Mirdain family, trained by blademasters in Adianthel, first blooded with Aristos on the snowy slopes of Cieradan, and someone he trusted to shoot an arrow over his shoulder in the thick of battle. Talon was glad Dest Locke had sent him what he requested.
Talon side stepped his battlehorn to the next Captain. Sorek Bladewing sat stifly next to Elswyr. Although they hailed from different houses, Bladewing and Reimzad had become brothers in service to the Nithron Throne. Elswyr's house belonged to the Serene Spire, the conclave of Mirdain scholars and mages that had long danced for power with the Emerald Throne in Charybdis. In decades before, a Bladewing Lord, one of Sorek's kin, had once sat upon that contested throne as Aran, yet these two warriors of rival factions were now united in their service to Talon. Sorek met Talon's gaze steadily. His justicebringer glinted in the morning sun, freshly polished and shining.
Talon studied the blade and could not find a single notch in the sword, as if it were crafted new. Talon tapped the pommel of his own sword and gestured to the tall Mirdain's blade. "Sorek, your blade is untested?"
A small smile crept its way onto Elswyr's face, as he watched Sorek shift under Talon's gaze.
Sorek straightened in his saddle then and answered flatly that "yes, Warlord. My blade was..." He hesitated for only a second. "Lost. Before our journey across the Noalca straits. Banedon has reassured me that the shards can be fashioned into an excellent Bloodleech. This weapon has not been tested, but the blade swings true, and it bears Banedon's master mark." As if to reassure him, Sorek held the justicebringer up, so that Talon could make out Banedon's sigil on the pommel.
Talon was well acquainted with the alfar mastersmith's work. Although Talon favored Orcish metalworks, he respected the Alfar's craftsmanship. "You shattered your sword, Sorek? On what?"
At this Elswyr started laughing, and Sorek's face flushed crimson. "He lost another game of dice," Elswyr blurted out, "The sword could not with stand his anger."
The other captains began snickering. Endaar Azel, the captain who stood last in line, abreast of Sorek, let out a throaty laugh.
Sorek's head snapped to Endaar and he barked, "That green lordling cheats!" He gestured behind him to the younger Mirdain wearing adjutant pips on his sleeves. The adjutant, which Talon did not know, but only assumed was here serving one of his captains, cringed at the attention, shrinking back from Sorek.
Talon gave Sorek a toothy smile and nodded, sidestepping his battlehorn down the line, stopping now in front of Endaar Azel. Although Talon's understanding and interest in Mirdain politics was fleeting, he knew Endaar was the outlier in this group. Belonging to House Azel meant he was one of the Arrowheads, this Mirdain was built more like an Orc than a Mirdain and had a much more practical approach to most things. Talon liked that. A gravesong was draped over one of Endaar's bulky shoulders, and a manus dei lay across his lap, as if the older Mirdain warrior meant to both fill his enemy with arrows and cave their heads in with his mace at the same time. Talon imagined that if Endaar could have a third hand, he would try such a thing. The Warlord noticed freshly sharpened spikes on the manus dei and offered Endaar a grin and an approving nod.
Endaar returned the nod silently.
Talon thought the heavy spiked club was better suited to Orc hands, but he had already seen how devastating Endaar could be with it, if given the chance. As Talon wielded his mount around and returned to the head of the line, he caught the adjutant's eye. "You. What's your name?"
"Silverfall, sir. Sirtas." The younger Mirdain answered quickly. Sirtas' reigns quivered slightly in his anxious hands.Green lordling, indeed.
House of Silverfall, if Talon recalled, was loyal to the Emerald Throne. Although former allegiances were broken when each of these Mirdain nobles swore fealty to the Nithron Throne, Talon knew that old ties died hard. These Mirdain were no different than Bonecrushers, Blackbanes, and Oomlocks. If they sought out service, they relied on clan bonds as much as any Orc would. Although the Mirdain intricacies were often lost on him, knowing how each of his captains saw the next, he knew, was important for a commander. A Silverfall would be here serving another house connected to the Emerald, so either Bladewing or Giannes, although Giannes was unlikely. House Giannes had fallen by the wayside of Mirdain politics, and so for an adjutant from a powerful house such as Silverfall to be serving a Giannes... It just seemed unlikely. Although admittedly, given Sorek's mood and the story of the broken sword, it was equally unlikely that Sirtas served him.
"Which of my Captains do you serve, Silverfall?"
"Sorek Bladewing, sir."
Talon came to a realization. So that's why Sorek is so bitter. His house must owe Silverfall a favor, and so this lordling is here. He's stuck with him, even if the lordling takes his coin.
Talon turned to study the regiments arrayed behind his captains. He spoke loudly now, raising his voice for the entire company to hear. "Our survey around Ehetil is nearly finished. The swamp to our North is the last of these lands. Walk softly, the wails of the Undead are said to emanate from Talpec, the center of their infestation here on Yssam. Talpec is North of the swamp. We will not go past the swamp." He nodded to Aristos then.
Aristos turned his own mount and held up his hand for attention. His intricate metal armor clinked and clacked as he turned, as if anticipating his comments. "Do not venture into the water here. The soft bottom will take any metal boot and filth will rust the joints of your breastplates and leggings. We will circle the swamp once and return here to Ehetil."
With that, both Talon and Aristos turned together and began riding, down the slope, and forward towards the swamp. As they did, Aristos lowered his hand and the other three captains spread out behind them, the regiment following suit. The slight rustle of bows being untied from their saddles and the rattle of swords being checked in their scabbards followed them.
As they approached the swamp, Aristos' unease grew. The waters of the swamp he already knew were tarnished and would bring sickness, but beyond that, something dark seemed to stir below the still surface. He studied the foul water wearily. Aristos drew in on himself and closed his eyes, reaching out with his mind to probe the waters ahead, searching for anything alive. The clomp of hooves stopped as they reached the edge. Standing so close, the familiar odors of sulfur and water that had stood still too long filled Talon's nostrils. He breathed in deeply. They reminded him of Morak, of home. Talon and Aristos sat on their mounts side by side, one studying the water with battle hardened eyes, and the other with eyes closed, studying with the arcane sight.
"Seems harmless enough," Talon said under his breath, only loud enough for Aristos to hear, but he still checked the buckles on his breastplate, silently tightening his shoulder straps.
"Perhaps," the mage conceded, opening his eyes and offering his friend a weak smile. "Let's get this over with then."
The pair continued East and then North, wrapping around the water's edge, their battlehorns leaving giant muddy footprints. Elswyr, Sorek, and Endaar had served so long with Aristos that battle formations had become like breathing. No commands were issued or orders received. Each Captain lead a small contingent of five, and each contingent was an extension of their Captain, following slightly behind them. Elswyr and his archers rode closest to the water, following the path of Talon and Aristos. Sorek and his bladeguard rode some ten meters behind them, watching the rear. Endaar's troop hung alongside the line, distanced itself from both, riding twenty meters deeper into the jungle, watching the trees for movement instead of the swamp. The triangle formation was what Talon favored, and Aristos had prepared the other captains for it.
Any other commander would want Endaar's heavy cavalry up front, to insulate the archers and protect the Warlord and his second, but Talon was an Orc and an Oomlock. Aristos had seen him nearly cleave a human assassin in two before, taking both of the attacker's daggers in stride and moving through him, bringing his sword up and through the man, as if cutting down a sapling. Talon and Aristos had been riding at the head of a similar formation, riding patrol in Wanar Hall, West of Andruk, when the assassin had seemingly appeared from nowhere. Talon did not fall back behind the protection any of his men would offer, but stepped forward and pushed Aristos back. In three great strides of his Orcish legs, thick as tree stumps and twice as tough, Talon met and killed the man before a single word of power could leave Aristos' lips.
After Wanar Hall, word spread and his men let him ride at the head of any column he wanted. That was five years ago and no assassin since had appeared to face Talon in single combat, so the front of the column, at the head of the van, oddly had brought him peace.
Having completed half of the distance around the fetid swamp, Talon and Aristos came upon a path of dry earth that lead south through the middle of the bog. It was a skinny swath of land that bisected the swamp. At the head of it, spilling into the water itself, was an old abandoned camp. The gates of the camp were in tatters, and the flimsy bamboo walls were peppered with holes and gaps.
As they approached the camp, Talon held his fist up to signal silence and halt, gathering the column back together. He drew his captains to him and instructed them to have their men rest. They would investigate the camp while the company waited. All eyes studied the North, weary of the warned of threat from Talpec. They had heard stories of attacks even in broad daylight.
"Sorek, you're with me. Aristos, stay with the men. Elswyr, left around that wall. Endaar, right, through that gap in the wall." The instructions were simple, efficient. Uncomplicated. The adjutant, as adjutants can, had to complicate it.
"Lord Bladewing, would you have me accompany you?" Sirtas asked loudly.
Talon's ears wilted in annoyance. He turned to tell him no, but Sorek shook his head.
"The green doesn't rub off by not seeing anything."That was true.
"Silverfall, behind Sorek. Let's go." Talon growled, loosening his sword in its scabbard as he trudged forward.
They advanced as a group, spreading out to spider over the camp. Talon sniffed the air as they approached the gates. The camp's gates had the markings of a raven standard tribe, the bastard half-cousins of the Orcs, but it did not smell lived in. It smelled of decay. Tall grass grew along the foot paths and there was only old gray ash in the cook pit. It had been abandoned for a while.
Endaar whistled for attention. "Talon, come look at this shield."
Endaar held an iron enforcer that had been badly mangled. The shield looked like it had been bent in on itself, almost in half, and in one corner there was a half moon of metal missing, as if someone had cut it out of the edge.
"Dwarven metalwork," Elswyr commented, beckoning for Endaar to pass the shield. Elswyr took it and studied the damaged shield carefully. "What's this here?" he asked, holding the section of shield with the missing edge up for closer inspection.
Endaar, House Azel, expert Arrowhead tracker, looked hesitant for once. "They look like bite marks," he said as he took the shield back and turned it over. "Yes, this section looks like it was bitten off. Look at the jagged edge of the iron." Endaar pointed to the crooked edges. "Something either bit that shield or cut it off with a serrated, like a shark's tooth blade the hob-goblins use."
Elswyr studied the shield skeptically. "So, which is it?"
Endaar looked from Elswyr to Talon, a hint of concern playing around his eyes, creasing the wrinkles at their corners and only slightly furrowing his thin eyebrows. "Bite mark I'd say."
Unconvinced, Talon gestured for the shield then, taking it from Endaar and holding it up to the noon sun, studying the silhouette of the missing piece.
Elswyr frowned at them both. "You must be mistaken. I have never heard of a creature, this cursed jungle or anywhere, that can bite through a solid iron shield."
Talon held the shield at arm length then and tried to pry it apart, tried to right its form by pulling each corner out. He grunted, his muscles coiled with the effort, but the enforcer only groaned under the pressure. Talon stopped, flexed his fingers and looked up at the two Mirdain hunters, "I've never seen a shield so thick be bent in two either."
Sorek and his adjutant joined them, noticing the gathering from afar.
Talon held the shield up for him to study. "Sorek, have you seen the likes of this damage anywhere else? A solid iron shield bent in half with a piece," and he hesitated, looked at Endaar for confirmation, to which the Arrowhead only gave the slightest of nods, "bitten out of it?"
Sorek, already in a surly mood from the adjutant's constant questions, grabbed the shield from Talon and removed his skinning knife from his belt. He scraped along the jagged bite mark and as he did, brown mucus began to collect on the knife blade. "Definitely something bit it. Something nasty. Bog imp, maybe a raptor, something with corrosive saliva," and with that simple proclamation, Sorek handed the shield back to Talon and started wiping his skinning knife on the grass.
Talon looked to Endaar and grinned. The Arrowhead had been upstaged at his own game by a Nobleborn. Sometimes even Mirdain politics could be amusing.
Endaar, eyes narrowed, said, "A raptor with corrosive saliva, really Sore--" but before he could finish the question a panicked yell rang out from behind them.
Sorek's adjutant had become wrapped in a pale green rope. Sirtas screamed again as he jumped back, trying to draw his sword, slipping and falling backwards. Coiled rope? no, snake! Talon's mind worked quickly to identify the snake. The wrong markings, the wrong scales, and the adjutant could already be dead.
Endaar and Sorek both held their hands up to calm Sirtas.
"Don't. Move." They said in unison. Sirtas froze, but his breathing came heavily still.
Elswyr had already knocked an arrow and drawn his bow. Talon did not remember that happening. Elswyr stood poised to shoot, bow string at full tension, arrow pointed dangerously at snake and Sirtas.
The adjutant slowly calmed down, as the snake did not strike, but curled around his leg, coiling up around his knee, flicking its tongue to test the air.
Endaar groaned and Talon confirmed his fears. "Pit viper," he whispered, as if delivering a death sentence.
"Is that bad?" the terrified young Mirdain mouthed to Sorek, unwilling to even risk a whisper. Elswyr turned to Endaar and motioned for him to get something. Endaar disappeared behind them, running out of the camp.
Talon kept motioning for Sirtas to stay calm by lowering his palms to the ground. If Sirtas died here, now, to snake bite, Sorek would have hell to pay with Bladewing and Silverfall. Talon did not want that.
Endaar returned with Aristos and a polearm taller than either warrior. One end of the weapon was covered in foot long spikes of neithal, tinted a soft blue, designed for ripping innards and piercing flesh.
Elswyr had never undrawn the bow. He still stood over the snake and adjutant, slowly tracking the snake's head, waiting for the right moment. Arms and bowstring taut, mind rushing to make calculations for wind, moisture, movement, anything that could affect his shot, even a close shot.
Endaar took the polearm from Aristos and moved closer, slowly reaching out with a spike, positioning it behind one of the snake's coils.
Sirtas tensed, realizing what was about to happen and closing his eyes.
"Wait," Elswyr whispered, still tracking the viper's rhythmic motion back and forth. Moments stretched and seemed to turn on eternity as no one spoke and the snake remained on Sirtas' leg. The only sound that could be heard was the heavy breathing the adjutant could not slow, and to keen ears, the slight creak of tension on a bow string.
A Thwapp! rang out as Elswyr took his shot. In the same lightning second, Endaar planted the ripper's spike and ripped the snake by its midsection away from the adjutant.
To Talon's eyes, it all happened at once. How the two hunters had coordinated the attack, he would never know. The viper's head split in two as the arrow found its target, and then in only an instant, the body ripped away from the head as Endaar simultaneously pulled with the polearm, flinging the decapitated snake a few feet away.
"Well done!" Sorek boomed. He sounded relieved. Talon was relieved too.
Sirtas, visibly shaken, got to his feet with Sorek's help.
"Watch where you step next time," Sorek offered dryly.
"I will, bastard snake," and the young Sivlerfall's hands glowed orange with magic.
"NO, DO NOT--" Aristos screamed, moving to stop Sirtas, but it was too late. The ball of fire issued from the adjutant's hands and erupted on the ground, engulfing the snake.
"Do not cast magic in this place!" Aristos hissed at Sirtas, but then his face changed and Talon felt like a pit viper had just crawled up his own leg. He had never seen Aristos' face go pale like that.
As soon as the young mage had drawn power to cast his fire magic, Aristos felt foreign minds stir, he felt them awaken in the waters around them, in the murky depths just over those flimsy walls. Hundreds of them, buried deep in mud, asleep, but now waking, swimming to the surface. They searched.
"We need to go. Now,
" Aristos took his ripper from Endaar. He whispered words of power and earth materialized around him in a shield. "Talon, the swamp awakens," and he turned, readying his ripper as he walked North towards the camp's gate. But as Aristos got to the gate, heavy footfalls could be heard outside of it.
He paused, hands tightening around the polearm, settling into a battle stance, preparing himself for whatever would come around that corner.
A massive, silver scaled head, larger than any raptor's, on top of a lizard as a tall as a man appeared in the gateway. The creature was still dripping water, and from two slits in its silver head beamed cold yellow, reptile eyes. Soulless eyes. The creature never blinked, but it stood their studying them. To Talon, it looked like the largest naeled he had ever seen, but the head was much too large. The head also looked as if it were made of metal, if that were possible. It gleamed in the sun, iron--no--theyril scales. It wore armor. Human armor, although damaged and falling apart. It even had hands. Not claws. Human hands.
Without warning, it lurched forward towards Aristos.
The Mirdain marksmen amongst them, who had been waiting with bows drawn since the creature appeared, let two arrows fly. Elswyr's arrow struck the creature in the face, but it clattered harmlessly off its thick scales. Endaar's arrow found the thing's chest, slamming into its right breast. Half of the arrow burst out of the creature's back, and it still came forward like a grotesque rag doll pierced by a needle.
Not pausing, both Elswyr and Endaar fired two more arrows before it reached Aristos. Three arrows stuck out of its chest now, yet it still came, shrieking a battle cry that forced the adjutant to cup his ears.
Aristos stepped back, planted his feet, and then lunged, transferring all his weight forward as he surged towards the creature, thrusting his ripper. Aristos entire body went into the blow, propelling the ripper forward and burying the spikes deep in the thing's chest, crushing it in, sending it backward out the gate. Aristos threw the polearm with the beast.
As the lizard's body fell backward out the gate, two more of its kind appeared to replace it. Talon saw movement behind the bamboo walls all around them. How many were there? Foot falls crunched all around them as the creatures collected outside the walls.
The top of a silver head peaked over the Southern wall, but Elswyr's arrow struck home this time, piercing a yellow eye and sending it falling backwards.
At the gates opposite, Aristos had drawn his sword. Veilron whispered in the hot Yssam sun, as it came free of the scabbard. Aristos clutched it in both hands and advanced on the two beasts ahead, but Talon bellowed a command before he could engage.
"BACK ARISTOS, EVERYONE NORTH!" The Orc commanded, grabbing Sirtas with one hand and flinging him to Sorek. "Don't let him fall behind," the Orc said, before he pulled his own sword free.
Talon lowered his visor and tightened the grip on Bloodletter, his enchanted justicebringer. The sword responded to the Orc's strength, faintly glowing in anticipation. Talon charged toward the gate. As Talon passed Aristos, the mage whispered to his friend and bands of faint blue light whirled around the Orc.
Talon met the first creature with the tip of his sword, impaling it and pushing it back. As the blade slid through the first creature's shoulder, Talon turned and with a heavy mailed fist slugged the second in its theyril jaw. As the blow connected, arcs of fire shot up through the Orc's right arm, racing up his nerves to his neck. As soon as his fist had connected, he knew he had broken bones in his hand, but the blow had knocked the thing to the ground. Stupid
. The Orc managed to think between the growing spasms of pain that throbbed from his hand and travelled up his arm.
"Come on," Talon managed through gritted teeth, "let's go." His Mirdain captains listened well, even the adjutant, all moved to the gate, with Elswyr and Endaar only pausing to fire arrows behind them into the growing number of creatures clamoring over the walls.
The group sprinted North away from the camp, yelling ahead to ready the mounts.
Aristos snuck a glance behind them, but to his surprise, the creatures had not followed.
As their Captains spilled into the make shift resting spot, confused men from the regiments jumped up, and quickly made ready their mounts, lashing weapons to saddles, stowing food, and strapping on armor.
Their hasty preparations were interrupted by a chorus of ghastly wails from the underworld reverberating off the trees. A shade materialized in the middle of the camp and began whispering magic, chanting a spell at one of the men. The air crackled with lightning, as a rotating ball of energy emanated from the manifestation. It narrowly missed one of the fleeing soldiers.
The regiment was taken by surprise, and men began to scatter in all directions. Cries of “The Undead!” rang out as men fled.
Aristos turned and flung both arms at the shade. Arcane spikes thrust out of the ground in three directions, piercing ethereal flesh that could not be damaged by bow or blade. The shade withered and disappeared, remnants of it floating away into the canopy of trees above.
“TO ME!” Talon yelled, his deep Orc bass voice boomed louder than anyone. The jungle went still, men stopped, their fear withered and faded as the shade had, and the regiments returned to their commander.
His right arm hung limply at his side. The stitches that had closed up the gash on his left had broken open and blood was dripping from his shoulder, running down his elbow and collecting on the mossy floor.
Talon spoke loud but plainly, “The Undead will come from the North. We cannot go North, nor can we risk skirting the swamp East or West. Neither direction would carry us away from Talpec fast enough. There is a path directly South that cuts through the swamp. Ready your mounts. Whatever meets us South, we will ride through it.”
The captains all looked at Talon now. They knew what lay in wait to the South.
Aristos nodded in approval. Aristos would follow him through a Gardoroc’s jaws and back. “You heard him, get moving!” Aristos seconded the command, swinging a leg over his battlehorn’s back and mounting up, readying saddle quiver and omrog alike.
Talon managed to get on his own battlehorn with some help from Sorek and Sirtas. The other captains mounted and quickly circled around Talon.
“Endaar will punch through the raven camp with his company of horns. Sorek, your bladeguard will ride second. Elswyr’s archers will ride third and support you both in the push.”
Nods all around.
“Move with haste then.”
The column formed as an arrow pointing south. A line of Endaar’s heavy cavalry marked the sharp edges of the arrow building to the point, while Sorek’s bladeguard and Elswyr’s archers rode behind them, making up the rest of the arrowhead. At the front rode Talon and Aristos, as was their way. Before Talon could issue the order to ride, more otherworldly shrieks cried out from the North. Talon turned in his saddle to look.
To their north, atop the nearest mountain of Talpec, stood a lone figure. Even from that great distance, Talon could feel the Undead General's gaze, he thought he could see the faint red glow of dead eyes. In the figure's right hand he held a sword that burned black flames. The blade seemed to consume light and Talon knew the weapon by only one name: Shadebringer. The Undead Lord he had heard stories of.
As the story went, his true name had been lost long ago. He who wields Shadebringer is known only as nightmare.
Following Talon's long gaze, the column saw the Undead commander as well. They needed no further command, every member wanting to get as much distance from the haunted city as they could. The column began their ride south.
Edited by KeslVrys, 15 December 2011 - 07:36 PM.