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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 1:20 pm 
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Of course, there were actually only 5 armies present in the battle of six armies. But then, the Nagarathi always did have trouble counting... ;)

+1 to the great read comment

Rod

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 10, 2015 4:13 pm 
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@Rod

Ah, I see the problem! :) Yes, that battle is often recounted as being of 'Five Armies' - thanks in no small part to the often misconstrued accounts of a certain other chronicler. But there were in fact Six Armies! [-X

See what is not so commonly known is that in that battle, arrayed against the Troll-Goblin, Grom, was the 'Last Alliance of the North'. The combined armies of the Northern Kingdoms met in those mountains to do that great battle. There of course were the Yvressi Homeguard. But then also there was the Cotii Expeditionary Fleet, the Chracian Bear-Runners, and...the Host of Nagarythe! One, two, three, four, five! And number six was the massive flight of Eagles that came in at the last from Gaen Vale. (I understand some of the other kingdoms had planned on sending support. Notably Saphery. They had actually put together a committee to debate whether the goblins were in fact on Ulthuan at all. :D They came later after the battle was over.)

Now granted, the Nagarathi contingent was actually just the Shadow Prince Rage and a handful of Shadow Warriors. Which is why their part is often forgotten in the tales in other kingdoms, and why this battle is typically referred to as the Battle of Five Armies. Yet never in Nagarythe! Nor in Yvresse! No lesser a person than Eltharion himself is reported as saying during the course of the battle, "Damn! Those Nagarathi are an army in themselves!!"

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PS There were no colonials present. Because, well, colonials. #-o


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:55 am 
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Seven guys cowering behind some rocks and one guy chopping goblins to pieces does not count as an army. Doesn't even count as a warband. I would hardly count it as a unit of one of the other armies.

As for Eltharion's comment, that was cynical, after watching them cower behind their rocks.

And the colonials. Well, there wasn't anything to gain for them in Yvress. All they have to trade is mist and gloomy leaders (probably because of the mist), and there just isn't that much demand for it. So why bother really?

Rod

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PS: Bring cookies!

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2015 9:10 am 
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Yvresse never had very strong ties with Nagarythe, opposite sides of the continent and a lot of time spent at see didn't help. Shadow Warriors have come to the Armis Kormalin from time to time, and the Mist Walkers had done exercises with Shadow Warriors from time to time. As for the Hosts involvement with Grom, it was Shadow Warriors who along with the Silver Helms of Southern Yvresse distracted the horde for long enough so that the remnants of the Tor Yvresse Guard could flee back behind the high walls of the city. My father lead that charge, he had been placed in reserve with his knights after arguing with the Commander of the force about leaving the city unguarded. It was a sad day for many families that day.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2015 6:14 pm 
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@T

Those were terrible times. Tanith was there, and he told me about it. Beyond the massive invasion was all the nonsense happening in Lothern. The court was split over the reports: some refusing to believe that there were goblins on Ulthuan at all; others believing it was some Druchii trick, a distraction from a pending invasion from the north. And so for far too long Yvresse cries for aid went ignored, and Yvresse was forced to stand alone against the horde ravaging its land. Calls upon honor and service were met with cynicism and local self interest. I understand that the mind mages of Hoeth actually coined a new term to describe the phenomenon: Regressive Optimism Disorder (R.O.D. for short), a sociopathic tendency to interpret every event through a window of self-interest and advancement. Certainly, not the best example of Asur civilization. And there is no wonder that the lead up to the war with Grom gets so little discussion in the schools and historian's chambers of the south. :(

Only Cothique, long bound to Yvresse through ties of trade and kin, responded quickly to the request.

Even in Nagarythe it became a political issue. Without an order from the Phoenix, the Shadow Prince was forced to turn to the Elder Assembly to get permission to take the Host beyond Nagarythe's borders. The clan elders refused, citing the ever present threat from the north, and for a while there it seemed like no Nagarathi would be involved. But Rage left the chambers filled with, well....rage, and returned to his army and asked for volunteers. Volunteers to mutiny! In the end, ten Shadow Warriors (two full teams) and a cynical heaven's mage from Eataine, accompanied him in this seditious act. They were forced to go by secret to the east, and in the final stages, to crawl through a fen in southern Cothique with only reeds of local straw-grass as breathing tubes, to slip through the foul waters and past the goblin scouts and into the camp of the Yvresse Warden. The sight of these northerners crossing a mist covered glen one morning, covered from head to toe in swamp filth earned them forever after the moniker, the 'Unclean Twelve'.

But serve they did. And shortly thereafter representatives from Chrace arrived - a hunter sect of devout Kurnous worshippers. They were renowned for two things: refusing clan oaths in favor of service to their deity, and for the semi-annual 'running of the bears' that they hold as a religious festival in their citadel in the east of Chrace (maimings are quite common!).

The stories Tanith tells from those days! I can scarce believe. The last defense of the Underpass. The brutal Battle of the Pines, and the treetop fortresses there. The Long Stone Wall, that the Nagarathi held by themselves for four hours alone, under repeated charge of goblin and spider alike. The goblins displayed their characteristic cruelty, but also a cunning and savagery that many thought could be attributed to the influence of the Chaos powers. The battles were numerous, and brutal. And then of course, there was the rescue of the 'moon maiden' - when Eltharion and Rage used secret tunnels to slip past the siege of Tor Yvresse to fight their way through a temple under attack by ensorceled Night Trolls.

Anyways, when it was all said and done it was a near thing that Rage wasn't sent on the long walk beneath Anlec. His mutiny was widely acknowledged, but in the end an act of the Crown pardoned him, so the elders decided clemency was the wisest course of action.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 15, 2015 7:47 am 
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Headshot wrote:
stuff

Pertty much what I said, except with more words...

;)

Rod

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:18 pm 
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Day Seven – Part Two



Running.

That was all his world was. Running. Loping across a battered wasteland. Being sent hither and yon at the jerk of the Shadow Walker’s index. Gigantic boulders pulverized the flatlands ahead, like the telltale aftermath of a titan’s hammer blows, they left nothing but craters and dust in their wake. It was a nightmare world of desolation and creeping whispers in the stillness of the mind. That hand was still on his heart, still squeezing.

And he was running. His breath coming in stranded trout gulps, suddenly he felt glad for the week’s worth of tedious labor he had done. He did not know how he would keep up otherwise. They had to move quick. They had to move far. They had to find the enemy, then signal the army… And that meant running.

He did not want to be here.

He did not want to be here.

He did not want to be here.

In this blasted emptiness of mad lingerings and will-o-wisps in the corner of the eye. It was an emptiness beyond the wasteland; it was an emptiness of sanity. Of reason. Things that should not be, were. Cliff faces that were impossible high stood atop billowing sand dunes. Only to be replaced by more gravel, move crushed stone.

More whispering.

In the glimpses of the other’s faces, he saw a similar exhaustion. Willem’s brow was covered in sweat, but when his cousin saw him looking, the same fierce excited smile erupted into place. The brothers looked paled and half-dead, running as if they were on puppet’s strings. And Layk….Layk looked as if an elf walking to the gibbet. His eyes. His face. Everything about him was already dead.

Only the two elders before him seemed immune. The sharp black dots that were Tanith’s eyes, probing the horizon, searching always searching. And… the solitary figure of the Shadow Prince. There was a strange peace to his countenance now that battle was approaching. As if the coming violence was a reprieve to him.

Or the coming death….

I do not want to be here, he thought again, and gulped some more air into the lungs. His legs were wooden things, and his arms were boneless fish. He just had to keep putting one foot before the other. Keep swinging the dead limbs forward. It was growing dark. In the afternoon. Hours had passed. But, the dark seemed preternaturally early. Like a midnight come before its time.

And we are walking into it.

I do not want to be here. He thought of the little hunter’s cabin in the canyons west of his village. There in the spring he could slip away alone. After weeks of working in the gardens with his parents. And the winter training in the militia. It was his first time every year to be alone. There was a little brook that ran at the base of the canyon, just past the cabin door. It was filled with northern trout. He would leave his bow unslung and take up his fishing pole, and just sit there for a few days. Sometimes he would catch something to take home; sometimes only something small enough to break his fast while there. But it was the quiet he craved. The solitude. The passing of time where the only thing to accompany you was the gentle rhythms of the rocks and trees, and the beating of your own heart.

Now that iron gauntlet was wrapped about his heart. Squeezing. And he felt the Watcher. Felt the presence always at the back of his neck – the eyes upon him. The predatory gaze that left him feeling vulnerable and exposed.

Suddenly a whistle-crack burst into the dark. Tanith held up his hand and cocked his head. The youths, panting, stopped behind him.

“Signal arrow,” the old Rover muttered. “Caleb has found them,” he added to the lord beside him.

The Shadow Prince looked about them, and then spying a granite escarpment, sprinted over to its side and started climbing up, hand over hand. Tanith and Willem turned to follow. With a whispered groan, Tim did likewise.

Gods. His arms burned now. The bones within felt like shattered fragments. But then he was pulling himself up over the lip and standing atop the stone. He looked around. It was a stone, black and smooth. A singular substance, like a pebble made to a giant’s hand. It towered over the surrounding wasteland like an isolated keep, black rock over the grey-brown dust-shale.

“There,” the Shadow Prince indicated. Tim squinted: across the flatlands he saw a small marshy patch – a salt lick of a poisoned pond – and there beyond it, a cluster of ramshackle buildings.

“What the….?” Quill muttered next to him.

Tanith glowered. “More Saphery work. Another abandoned camp? What the hell are they doing up here in secret? Looks relatively fresh too. Only a couple years old.” He spat on the stone. “They doing more ‘research’ for colonials?”

There was no answer to that, but whatever their purpose Tim could briefly make out the other Shadow team before they disappeared into the darkness among the buildings. And then….

“Khaine’s Teeth,” he gasped.

To the north he saw movement. At first it played upon the eyes like a shimmering mirage, a shuffle of motion in the darkness. But then, then he saw the lights. Hundreds upon hundreds of tiny green lights, burning like fireflies in the dark. Until he realized they were always in pairs.

Then he knew what he saw were eyes. Eyes filled with a cold rage and green witchfire. And the shuffling was of lines. Long lines of limbs and armor swinging in an eerie, silent unison. Ranks upon ranks of bleached bones marched forward to war in a perfect uniformity that was a madness itself. There were large bronze icons held up before the marching ranks, some pantomime of a living unit’s banner, that depicted scorpions and two headed serpents. And there was a pulsing…. A pounding that matched the one in his chest. Drums. War drums. Long dead drums beat a rhythm to match the marching monsters.

“There are so many…..” Quill murmured in terror.

And then there came the cries! Shrieks like mountain panthers echoed from high in the black over head. Tim looked up and could see shadowy figures diving in and out of the stars, just briefly blocking out the twinkling glow with leather wings and raptor beaks. Eyes were up there. More sorcerous eyes. Green with power and burning with hatred.

And there was one…. He saw it now, clad in gold armor and a serpent’s headdress. He marched before the ranks accompanied by skeletons armed with great blades curved like scythes. His hands burned with power, and the flail he held glowed as bright as a torch. His eyes moved across the wasteland before it. And there was a cunning in them. A cunning beyond the singular will of those around it. Something old. Something cruel. Something hungering. Those eyes swept up and over the stone upon which they stood, and….

There was a knowing in them. It knew!! It knew we stand here!! The fanged skull beneath the headdress turned their way and the mouth gaped open, and a shriek-hiss as loud as a horn blast escaped the jaws.

The burning flail was pointed at them.

***

Narrin’Tim stumbled through the thornbush.

A barren land of desolation and malignant whispers, and yet still somehow that most pernicious of Nagarathi weeds managed to survive here. Survive, grow tall, and prick his arms and legs with its long thorns and serrated leaves.

“C’mon, Tim,” Willem said, a little exasperated. “We gotta hurry back.”

Hurry back. Yes, they had to do that, he thought as he sucked on the bleeding skin between his thumb and forefinger. They had delivered the message. “Go find Martin. Tell him to bring the archers up between the pond and the village, form up two behind the standard,” Tanith had said. “Oh….and tell him that we think the bulk of the undead army is heading that way. Be ready.”

Gods tears and sweat! He had to relay that message. ‘You two Romani,’ Tanith had charged. More scrambling down the rock, more running, even though his body felt like it was burned to charcoal. Staggering across the broken gravel and then almost losing themselves in the saltmarsh. Finally they had found the archer captain and relayed the instructions. The captain had just looked grim, eyeing the terrain before him, and only nodded his head in acknowledgment. And then it was back to running. Back to the rock.

But first, they had to relay one other order too. The Shadow Prince had said, “Find the two Sapheri. Tell them to stay with Martin’s archers.”

And that was it. They had to find them. And tell them…to go where the bulk of the enemy army was headed. To stand at the thick of the fighting, before the nightmare horde. It seemed so wrong. She was just a girl… younger than he….

“There! The Altrais banner!” Willem managed past some pants.

Have to hurry. Have to get back. But first….

Reluctantly he turned his feet towards the banner. It was held high, and accompanied by sounds of martial piping. The Eataini were marching in full order, shields and spears raised high. Not at all like the relaxed, almost slinking look of the Nagarathi archers. Before them walked the handsome captain, now with a tall conical helm on his head. It was so iconic. Tim had seen it a thousand times in the tapestries and picture books back home. And yet it was so rare to see in Nagarythe. Metal being scarce, it seemed a waste to use so much to protect one head. But weren’t all the armies of the south like that? Rows upon rows of helmets, that had little changed since the time of Aenarion. Just like these Eataini here. Small though they were in unit size, they bore resemblance to the pictures he had seen of the massive phalanxes wielded by Aenarion in the Golden War.

The captain signaled his troops to stop, and like magic the pipe stopped playing and the marines fell into a tight unison of lines and columns.

“What’s the word?” he greeted.

“Undead,” Tim said, and stopped to clutch his knees for support. “The whole army. Thousands strong. Approaches from the north.”

“Their metal banners are out. And they are arraying for battle,” Willem added.

“We came…” he gasped. “We came to find the Sapheri. The Shadow Prince wants them to join the archers. Just east of the pond. Stay there and….help.”

The Eataini pulled out a long tube and put it to his eye. “Getting as dark as the holdings beneath Caledor,” he muttered. “Ah there they are. Yes, that’s a lot.” He smiled in a thin, weak way. He turned and beckoned and Tim could see the young Sapheri wizard and researcher hurry towards them. Once more he relayed his instructions and with reluctant expressions, the two made off in the indicated direction.

“That army is broad,” the Eataini muttered while looking through his glass once more. “Much larger than we. They can spread out and envelop us from the west if we are not careful.”

“That is why the Prince is holding us back at the rock,” Willem explained and pointed.

“A single team of Shadow Warriors to cover the army’s entire western flank?” he said with raised eyebrows. He popped the tube back into place. “Well, tell your prince that my regiment will form up on the west side of the pond… just in case.”

The two just nodded at that. Then, Willem said, “C’mon,” and it was back to running.

The rock was before them, though it was becoming harder to see. The night seemed to be rushing on at a breakneck speed. Already the stars were out in force, strange and fierce glowing in the skies above. And he could see stripes of aether clouds among them – greens and purples in wide bands like glistening dust among the flickering pinpoints of light. Just a sliver of the dark moon was making itself aware yet.

He hoped the other runners had been successful. Hoped they had found the knights and Sapheri swordsmen. Hoped that Caleb’s team was fine. They were closest to the enemy. They would bear the first attack.

We should be joining them. Why are we staying out here this far on the flank?

Was the…? Was the Shadow Prince afraid?

Could that be it?

Suddenly, a chittering noise broke through his thoughts. The two drew up. They were in the lee of the big rock, so close to where they needed to be. But now they could hear it: the rustle of metal on bone, that unpleasant scraping sound. And then….

Green eyes in the dark! Glowing with ferocity and hatred. Skeleton warriors emerged from their right. Four of them. Bronze shields held before them. Curved swords in their bony hands. The eyes were what held Tim. The eyes that were just candle flames in emerald, and yet conveyed something. Some feeling. Some madness.

And then the swords were raised and the skeletons were charging towards them.

Willem had his bow up and loosed an arrow. Tim watched it leap out and clatter off one of the bonemen’s shields. His own bow was in his hands. He waited a half a breath until the shield dropped. He loosed the shaft! And watch it spring forward, past the edge of the shield, and into the tattered cloth and iron vest the thing wore.

It entered the chest. And then passed right through to emerge the other side.

And the skeleton had not stopped.

Willem was giving out a Romani war whoop now and drawing the hanger at his side. He charged forward.

Tim reached down and pulled at his own blade, his eyes still in shock at what he had just seen. He grabbed at the hilt, and tugged.

Only to feel his blade refusing to budge. He looked down. The loop of the clasp about the hilt was in place. He tried to thumb the thread free, but it wouldn’t move. Panicking he wrestled with it with both hands.

Willem was whooping. But then there was a painful grunt. He looked up. One of the skeletons had taken the Romani’s blow upon its shield while the other had circled to his flank and then battered the boy with a blow from its own bronze shield. Willem was staggering back. The skeleton was pushing him forward, then down with the weight of his shield and armored body. The other was moving its blade around to deliver the killing cut.

Frantically, Tim looked down at his hilt, trying to draw the clasp. The damn thing wouldn’t budge. And then there was movement in the corner of his eye. He dropped as a wicked curved blade swung through the air his head had just been. Then the other skeleton stepped into view, and he felt a blow of metal upon his shoulder.

Fortunately, that was where the bear-plate was affixed. Still, it staggered him backwards. And he struggled to gain his footing.

And then he realized. He had dropped his sword.


***


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 5:20 pm 
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Day Seven – Part Three


Narrin’Tim dove for his sword. He slammed into the ground just short of the thing and stretched his hands out for the scabbard. He heard the skeleton warrior stomp over to his side, felt a leather sandal upon his back, and he panicked. He flailed back with his hand while rolling to his side – sword forgotten. He could see the flaming eyes of the thing looming up in the black of the sky overhead, standing tall over his prostrate form, the eerie necromancer’s light of its life-force reflected in the bronze of the curved blade it bore. It hefted the blade…

Suddenly, there was a shattering sound. Tim darted a look and saw one of the heads of the skeletons fly from its shoulders. Palin’Tanith was there, a blade in either hand. He leapt over to the two surrounding Willem, and with two sure blows, severed the vertebrate of the necks of both undead. The heads tumbled, and with it the magic holding the monsters together vanished, causing them to collapse in a pile of bone and rust. The old Rover turned and sent a glare at the one standing atop Tim, then with a grunt thrust a sword into the ground, pulled out a knife at his belt and flung it underhanded toward the thing. It was a curved hatchet-knife and it spun as it flew, it collided with the things helmeted brow sending the ancient leather and bronze cap flying, along with bits of white bone. Then Tanith was standing there his sword slashing out shattering the things ribs, then spine, and sending it like its fellows to the ground.

The Islander glared down at him as he reached down and seized the boy’s arm, dragging him to his feet. “What the hells, lad?!”

Tim panted and looked about; Willem seemed just as drained and confused as he. “My sword,” he mumbled. “My sword wouldn’t work.”

Another ferocious glare from the Islander. “So what?!” he snarled. “You are not some Sapheri maid, waiting for the proper sized brushes to clean the chamber pots!! You are Nagarathi!! If your damn sword don’t work – “ he bent over and clutched at the ground, standing erect he slapped a rock into the boy’s hand. “Use a damn rock!! Just get it done!!”

Tim looked at the hard contours of the fist size stone in his hand. He mumbled something. Willem was over next to him now. There was crimson blood on his cheek and brow, but he was standing and breathing.

“Now you two, we got new orders for the Dragoons. Head back, find ‘em. Tell em the Prince wants em to hold in reserve behind the archers for now. But he’s gonna signal, and then he wants em to hit those skeleton phalanx hard. In the flank if possible. But hit em hard whatever it takes.” The Rover looked out into the blackening night. Strange and eerie lights seemed to hover and dance over the battlefield. Somehow they reflected off the night sky overhead, causing the stars to streak and run as if melting.

“It’s hells own turf over there,” Tanith muttered aloud. “Rough and broken, where it aint all marsh and salt flat. Hard on elves. Harder on horses. But they are gonna have to find a way. You tell em that. We are counting on them! Now go!!”

And then it was back to the races. Running in that strange night of ghost-cries, shuddering lights, and a creeping blackness.

This is the end of the world?

Or is it just the end of me? Tim thought.

***

Somehow they found the Black Dragoons and relayed the orders. The Captain looked as grim as any elf Tim had ever seen when he heard the word, but he only just nodded. Already the sounds of fighting could be heard from the field. The shrieking wind of flights of arrows aloft, alongside the cry of elf pierced and in agony; the frightening quiet of dead marching feet, thunderous in their unison of motion. Behind that, overhead in the star-filled black, were the echoing howls of things large and carnivorous, circling in the patches of black up there, crying their hunger and hatred out into the night. When one passed over, Tim would crouch down upon the ground, shivering in terror. Even the Dragoons he stood with were effected the same way: stern warriors, centuries old, forced upon hands and knees beside screaming horses by the predators overhead.

But then it was back. Back to running. Back to the rock. He had to join the battle. Find Tanith and the Prince. Do his duty.

He had to hadn’t he?

He couldn’t just hide. Hide in the thornbushes somewhere. Wait until the battle was over. He could wait and say he was waylayed and knocked unconscious by a stone or something. Or perhaps, he should make it look more realistic? He could cut himself with his own sword. Cut his arm or leg. Something deep and bloody. Then hide until it was over. And tell the others that he had been injured. Surely they would believe him…?

Assuming that they won. That there were any elves left by the dawn.

If he cut his arm and hid… He could run if the undead seemed near victory. Hide in the bushes and then run…. He would be a coward. But he would live….

There was just the problem of the cousin beside him. Somehow he would have to convince Willem. Somehow he would have to talk him into it. Tell him that he wanted no more. That the army was not for him. Tell him that he was sorry, but that he couldn’t go on anymore.

He looked at the boy running beside him. His friend since childhood. His face was exhausted, the blood thick in streaks upon one side of his face. Dirt and dust covered the other side. He looked so worn right then; almost a stranger. The big rock was looming up ahead – if he was to do it, he had to do it now. He slowed his run. Saw his cousin slow as well, a questioning look upon his face. Tim opened his mouth to speak….

There was a shrieking cry and a rattling of wheels, the thunder of unshod hooves. Tim turned. Out of the black beside them a ghastly contraption of bone and sinew and old wood came swinging out of the night – an undead chariot. Horses that were scarce more than flailing bone-limbs, and grasping teeth filled with green flame, pulled the platform at a break neck speed. On top were a pair of ancient warriors in pantomime of the desert people they once were, one flailing at the demon steeds before it, the other held a bow decorated in sigils of the asp. It loosed arrows towards them as the thing swung past. Tim thought he could hear the hissing of snakes as the volley flew. He threw himself down again, clutching the dirt, and hiding his face. Then the thing was gone, returned once more to the nightmares from whence it had sprung.

Tim got up on his hands and feet. “It’s gone now. I…. Willem, I can’t….”

He stopped. The silence was pressing upon the back of his neck like cold fingers. Fear filled him, a new kind of fear. Furious and freezing at the same time. He turned and looked back: there was Willem, stretched upon the ground, a confused look in his eyes over a gasping mouth. His hands reached down and wrapped about a black and green arrow buried in his belly.

“No…. No… Isha no!!!” Tim mumbled and cried. He crawled over. “You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine,” he said over and over again and moved to touch his cousin’s face. “It’s nothing. You’ll be fine.”

“Tim?” Willem said, and turned his head towards him. The eyes were already covered in a white haze. “Tim I can’t see you…. I feel cold.”

“You’ll be fine,” Tim mumbled some more. “I’ll carry you back to Tanith. He will know what to do.”

“I’m afraid, Tim. It’s so dark. I’m afraid….”

He felt tears falling down his cheeks then, as he staggered into more of a crouch and seized onto the body of his cousin, somehow managing to throw him over his shoulder and lurch into a standing position. His body’s pain forgotten, his thoughts purged of all but the need to carry him forward. He had to go forward….

***

Narrin’Tim lay in the mud. It was night over the valley. Overhead shone a dazzling array of strange constellations – bright reds, greens, blues – which gave the night an otherworldly cast. He tried to stay silent; not to whimper. Already one of their band was lost. He couldn’t think on it; couldn’t dwell on the fact that he was his cousin. His friend. One moment he had been running right beside him, the next a black feathered arrow sprouted from his belly. In the night a garish chariot, illuminated by eerie green will-o’- wisps rushed off. The archer, a man-skeleton, grinning at him as the chariot raced away…green points of light in his eyes. He gasped like a fish upon the shore. Even Narrin’Tim could tell that the wound was already festering; some foul magic of the barb. The Shadow Lord shook his head. Holding the fallen man's arm tight in his grip, the Shadow Lord himself drew the killing blade across his throat.

Now before them lay that witch-light vale. Staring through the tall grass, it was like looking into the nightmares of a thousand hells. Row upon row of long dead warriors, garbed in ancient rusty armor advanced. Towering above them all, a terrifying colossus, part man, part desert beast; green balefire burned in its eye sockets and open jaws. Its skin was a dark grey granite stone. Its mass of hundreds of tons shook the earth as it strode forward with a terrifying purpose. Before it, the thin lines of the Nagarathi wavered. Even now, he could see the proud pennants of the sea guard of the Harvest Moon begin to waver and drop.

Narrin’Tim looked to his left. His other brothers lay there beside him. Fear was etched in their faces. One covered his head, face pressed into the earth, and sobbed. Narrin’Tim realized the ground was warm and moist beneath him. He had soiled himself.

He looked to his right. There, standing on the crest of a low hill overlooking the valley, was a lone elf, the Shadow Lord. He wanted to yell, “Get down you fool!!”, but fear had stolen his voice. Instead he just stared. Tall, erect, with long black mane drifting beside him in the night breeze, the Shadow Lord watched the vale. But not in passivity. Narrin’Tim could see his face was twisted into a feral snarl – teeth bared; eyes narrowed. His hands were clenched into fists, level just before his waist, as if bound by invisible chains. The muscles of his arms and neck appeared to strain from some great exertion.

Before them the colossus strode onwards; seemingly oblivious to the Elf Lord’s fury. Its granite skin ripple as with the muscles of a great cat as it moved to within pouncing distance of the sea guard. But then…it appeared to stumble. A look, almost as of surprise crossed the nightmare visage. The great monstrosity froze in place…and shook! There! The rippling of the things muscles was now speckled with something else. Cracks! Cracks in its stone skin! Bits and flecks of its surface began to tear free and fall to the ground. The thing threw its head back and belched green fire into the night sky with a mighty roar. Then it froze completely. Seemingly from within the things chest came the slightest of sounds: a tinny voice, like of a man, many years into his winter, appeared to cry out in agony and frustration.

Green fire filled the cracks of the monster’s skin. With a deafening noise, the thing disappeared in a burst of fire, stone, and smoke.

Narrin’Tim threw his head down. His ears were ringing with pain. The battlefield had become oddly silent. He looked up. A cloud of ash and rock dust had descended, obscuring the view of anything more than a few feet away.

Then movement! A flash of gold and black. Striding out of the ash came the Shadow Lord. His armor appeared to trail black vapors as he came closer. Heat and steam seemed to rise from his bloodied hands. The Shadow Lord stopped before him.

“Come brothers, there is still much to be done.”


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 7:13 am 
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A beautiful piece of fluff in a time when all elf enthusiasts need it Headshot, many thanks to you, and the Nagarathi, Chronicler.

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Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 7:27 am 
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I was slowly getting afraid that you'd forgotten about the host and had left them stranded on the blighted isle staring down the undead hordes. Good to see you're still around.

Rod

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 1:47 pm 
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Well played Sir
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Spirit leeching a big cat, it's the thing.

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These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 2:04 pm 
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Almost late to Yvresse (Sapherii proverb), but in time to battle it seems. Not sure I am happier than poor Tim. But great to be back anyway. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 5:54 pm 
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@everyone

My apologies! I'm afraid other life intruded. I had to move across country. (And not one of those little postage stamp countries. Y'know, where you open your back gate and suddenly you are in Luxembourg! No we are talking multiple time zones and climates!) Now that I am settled in my new place I will see about finishing the story this week before I disappear.

to wit....


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 21, 2015 5:55 pm 
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Day Seven – Part Four


Rage. That was all he could feel. An all consuming anger, like a fire in his gut that spread out and consumed his limbs.

He loosed his bow. The arrow flew out into the night. He did not know if he had hit the target or not; his only concern was notching the arrows to string, feeling the burn in arms and shoulders with the draw, then the sweet shudder as the flight was loosed. Whispering harsh death at the point of the bodkin plummeting out into the night. He loosed and loosed again, because that was what he knew how to do. It was what the others were doing as well. The Easterling brothers, pale faced and grimacing, but with bows in their hands. Stoic Layk, eyes squinting with each shot. Tanith snarling and spitting as he put arrow to string. The Shadow Lord, standing tall atop the crest of the stone, sighting down the haft of an arrow….

And the rage burned in him. They had taken Willem. He had watched the light pass from his eyes; watched the body shudder with the last breath. Tim had held his cousin’s hand as the knife was drawn across throat. Part of him wanted to weep childish tears, to wail and gnash his teeth. No more would there be hunts before the winterfest. No more fishing in the little pond beyond the pines. No more would he hear his cousin’s laugh as they sat over warm mugs of honey mead in the clan hall. Never again. They had taken that from him….

They had taken that from him!!

And he wanted them destroyed. Wanted their bones crushed beneath his boot heel. Wanted to scatter them to the deserts of this cursed isle!

YES…..

He felt the whisper within his breast. Felt the calm presence within his chest, holding onto his heart as if it was a bird about to take wing. YES…. It whispered. But he did not care. He put another arrow to string.

Suddenly he saw a light appear. Off in the distance. There had been a dim glow there before, like the reflections of a distant bonfire, but now it surge into brilliance. Greens and blues it was, a pulsating hue. The light stretched forth and swept over the battlefield. A light so brilliant that it seemed the flames from a falling star had come to land.

“DOWN!!” the Shadow Prince called and leapt from his perch atop the stone. Tim just stared blankly, not quite comprehending. He felt a burly hand push at his shoulder and he went sprawling from the stone, fell nearly two horse’s height to the ash below. He slammed into the ground and tasted blood and sand. Clutching, he still felt the wood of his bow in hand.

Layk was beside him his face pale. Tim scowled at him, ready to shout and cry – how dare he push him?! Then the light swept across the battlefield. He saw it swing about like the search light from a lighthouse mirror; saw it swivel and seek like a great burning eye. It swept across the stone they had just stood upon and heard the rock split and crack. Heard the roar and crackle of a furnace. Then he felt the heat upon the back of his neck. He cried out in pain.

But then the ray of light was passed and sweeping down further along the battlefield. He saw it alight in the near distance. Heard the cries of elves, shrill voices in utter agony, before suddenly being silence.

“We must move,” the Shadow Lord said, and gestured into the dark….towards the undead lines.

“But…there is no cover,” Quill said, staring at the open ashlands.

“We must draw close, and destroy that liche relic, or it will consume all of us,” the Prince answered and began a crouch run into the dark without looking back.

“But that is madness!” Quill continued. “Whatever it is is on the other side of the enemy army! We can never reach it!”

“Get moving!” Tanith growled, and shoved the two brothers before him. With a glance at Tim and Layk, but the two were already moving. Tim had to move. He had to. He wanted them destroyed. He wanted to find the liche and bury his hanger into its throat.

And if that didn’t work, he would crush its skull with a rock.

Tanith was right…..

Suddenly the light was up and about again, sweeping across the desert sands.

“It has found us!” Quinn cried out.

He saw the light sweep across the ash, and he had little time to do anything other than watch its fiery passage…

Until it settled upon the Shadow Prince.

***

Throughout the battle, like a great evil eye, a green witchfire had burned in the distant hills. The spectral forms of men, elves and demons could be seen rising in the air above it, circling like moths. Now as the undead army bore down on their position, the Shadow Lord noticed a change in the green light. It flared, and throbbed – almost like a heartbeat – growing so bright in the distance that it dwarfed the stars above. Around the Shadow Lord the color appeared to drain from the world, melting into the barren soil like wax upon a stove. A cold darkness remained. In it, he was alone. Alone except for the bright green flame. It grew closer; or he grew closer to it. Time. Distance. All was lost in that netherspace. All that existed was the blackness. And the flame.

Then a man emerged from the fire. Not a man. No. the thing wore the regal robes of the ancient priest-kings of Nekhara, but the flesh of his face and hands were dessicated and sallow. More witchfire filled his eye sockets. He emerged from the flame and stood, seemingly, only a few paces in front of the Shadow Lord.

“Despair,” a chilling, empty voice called from nowhere, and everywhere about him.

“Despair o Elfling! You stand before a Disciple of Nagash!”

“Despair at the wastelands I have known and swallowed!”

“Despair at the ruins of the kingdoms of ancient days!”

“Despair at the death that follows in the wake of one of the keepers of the Secret Name of Death.”

“Despair in the emptiness of your Being!”

“Despair!”

The witchfire seemed to burn even brighter in the eyes of the ancient licheking as he last spoke, watching the elf before him. The elf's head was bowed now; shoulders slumped. Face buried by his long tresses. His body shook.

Most go weeping into the graves the liche-kings prepare for them….

The elf’s shoulders shook. And then…a noise emerged. The liche’s head lifted in surprise. It was laughter, a soft, deep chuckling was escaping from the elf’s lips.

“Despair?” the elf looked up and suddenly said, eyes steely. “What do you know of despair, dead thing?!”

“What do you know of the sunken cities?! The once glistening marble halls now drunk by the cold deep?!” the elf glared as he spoke, taking a step forward.

“What do you know of the elder groves – ancient even in the times when the Lizard Gods first walked this world – that now lie submerged beneath brine and filth?!!” The elf took another step.

“What do you know of the families lost! The households emptied! To treachery and madness! A nation of brothers forced to slay brother?! Speak! What do you know?!”

Another step.

“What do you know of the wife who has made the funerary rites, while her husband yet draws breath!? A wife who has sung the dirge of parting, though the blood and warmth of her love still walk this earth?! Tell me!!!!”

The elf now stood before the liche, who was frozen like a statue. Whispering, and shaking as he did so, the elf continued. “Tell me – what do you know of the son? A son who will grow into a man without ever once having known his father’s face? His father’s voice?? His father’s love??!!!” He shouted.

Sudden comprehension filled the liche’s face. As well as something alien – fear.

“Yes, Old Nick. Now you understand,” the elf said grimly. Then suddenly his hand seized the collar of the priest’s robes, pulling its rotting countenance close to his own. Cold black eyes met spectral fire ones. And the black. Did. Not. Flinch.

“I am a Prince of the Nagarathi! I am the Shadow Lord!!”

A grim smile split the elf's lips. “And a Shadow Lord knows not this thing despair….”

“All we know is hate!” With one clean motion, Spite left its scabbard and traveled along a single razor arc, cleaving the ancient evil from collar to hip, spilling the green flame bile into the darkness.

Color returned….

***

The light flickered and was gone. Tim looked and blinked. The Shadow Prince stood there, untouched, unmarked. His breathing was hard and ragged, like he had just engaged in a titanic struggle. And in the distance, the light was gone.

“C’mon!” Tanith was seizing upon the Prince’s arm. “We’ve got to keep moving. Before they - ”

He stopped. Tim looked up. In the black before him he could see the ranks of the undead. Hundreds of enemy monster-warriors, each one filled with an emerald bale-fire. Each carrying sword and shield, and black asp bow. And as one the ranks of the undead turned, and faced towards them. Hundreds of pairs of eyes, the entire force of the Liche army, was turned towards them. And he could see the cunning malice in the light of their eyes.

Black bows by the score were raised and bent. He could hear the creak of ancient wood synchronized, like a wind passing through a forest. As one the undead notched asp arrow to bow, and pointed them skyward in the direction of the handful of Shadow Warriors.

“Lileath’s Mercy!” Tanith moaned. “TAKE COVER!!”

Cover?! What cover??? Tim thought, and threw himself down between a small rock scare bigger than his head, and a thorn bush about the size of a nightstand. It was the best he could find.

He lay there, oddly calm, and simply looked about him.

Tanith was nearby lying in another scrub bush, glaring hatred out at the undead and cursing them with a razor tongue.

Beyond him, Layk was lying flat on his face a few paces away, hands wrapped about the back of his head. Past him the two brothers were sprawled side by side, and touchingly, trying to cover each other with hand and cloak. A last gasp of fraternal devotion that somehow managed to make tears well to Tim’s eyes, and sent a lump to his throat.

So this is the end…. He thought, and felt a mocking laughter in his chest. NOT YET LITTLE NAGARATHI, NOT YET…. It seemed to say.

He frowned, and wondered at that strange thought, and then….

He saw the Shadow Prince stride past them, walking calmly before them towards the hundreds of archers.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!!” Tanith cried out. “GET DOWN!!!”

But the ancient elf lord just continued to walk.

“PRINCE!!!” Tanith cried out again in frustration, and panic. “VAAL!!!” And his face shown terror and remorse.

But the Shadow Prince simply stood there, eyes closed, as the hundreds of desert bows sang out in unison, and a black cloud of wood and bronze tips seemed to sail up into the night sky. Arching up into the heavens, with an almost stately and ponderous pace, as it consumed the stars overhead, filling the entire sky with its deadly purpose. And slowly turned earthwards once more, coming down as a deadly rain….

And the Shadow Prince was…

Humming?!!

Yes! He stood there, and he was humming something. It was… Tim knew this. It was the song, Raining in Nagarythe. He had heard it just a few days before. A lifetime ago. The Shadow Prince was humming that old Nagarathi ballad as he stood beneath the coming rain, eyes closed….

And then the greatblade Spite swept from its sheath, extending a full reach out to the side, perfectly parallel to the ground. And the elf lord stepped forward, and spun about with the blade extended, and he….

Hummed that song!!

Tim stared in amazement. Watched in a fascinated horror as the flight of arrows, as thick as gnats in the summer lowlands, descend in a continuous rain of volleys. Watched as this mad lord stood their eyes closed, humming that old camp song, and…danced. Danced with the blade beside him, turning and whirling and twisting and spinning. The blade flashed and reached and swung and twisted, in flickers of silver light and whistling. The mad elf dancing to an old tune at the center of it.

And then the rain was there, Tim cried out and closed his eyes, and when he opened them….

He yet lived. He blinked. The ground about him was littered with split arrows, cut in two and shattered by the force of the greatsword’s steel.

And there was Palin’Tanith looking down at his own unpierced body, and at the ground around him. His fingers picked up one of the shattered hafts. “Son of a….” the old Rover gasped. There was awe on that ancient scarred face.

Tim turned his head, saw the brothers and Layk likewise unharmed, and stunned, surrounded by a field of broken arrows. Jerking his head back around he looked forward:

There was the Shadow Lord, still standing, sword at his side. Past him Tim could see the ranks of the undead drawing into battle lines, bows placed away they now hefted shield and sword, lance and hammer. The chariots forming into a sweeping wing before them were speed around the edges of the advancing phalanx and coming straight towards the handful of Shadow Warriors.

The entire undead army was advancing towards the six Nagarathi rangers, alone and in the open.

And the Shadow Lord looked back. The ancient elf’s eyes seem to seek out those of the young Romani, and Tim was surprised to see that there were tears in them. A bittersweet smile, small and fleeting, appeared on the elf lord’s lips, and he whispered:

“For the Everqueen….”

Then the Nagarathi lord turned and charged at the oncoming chariots.

***

Tim blinked. Then he stood up, and a Romani war whoop upon his lips, he two drew his blade and charged forward. Now was the time for his revenge. They would pay…

But there were so many of them!

He gritted his teeth. Tanith was beside him, a blade in either hand, crying cruel invectives as he ran. And Layk, grimly silent but with death in his eyes, was there on the other side. And there the two brothers, running and loosing arrows as they sprinted.

We are all mad, Tim thought. We are the mad elves of Nagarythe.

And maybe that is how it should be.

Those undead bastards will pay.

He set his shoulders and sprinted full tilt towards the charging chariots, fully realizing that this would be his last moment on earth. But at least he didn’t die a coward. At least…he would see Willem again soon. He could look at him in the eye when they met in Asuryan’s Golden Fields.

Suddenly, coming from a distant like the echo of an approaching thunderstorm, he heard a sound. The sound of many voices crying out in unison.

“FOR THE EVERQUEEN!!!”

And with came silver trumpets and the thunder of hooves. He saw the charioteers waiver upon their leather reigns. Saw them suddenly turning their heads towards the sound of the approach. Felt the earth tremble….

And there! There the standard of the Altrais, coming out of the dust and dark. The company of the Lothern marines, drawn up in perfect order, shields raised and spears leveled, they advanced at a run towards the bone chariots. The undead tried to turn tried to slow there advance to face this new foe, but the Eataini were already upon them, pushing as one shield upon back upon shield, they slammed into the first chariot with the force of a battering ram and sent it toppling. Then it was spear work, as silver tipped lances reached out and struck skull from spine. The other chariot was turning and preparing to charge towards them, when the Shadow Prince reached it. Two flashes of the great blade, and the two charioteers were piles of bone.

Tim was there at the third. He hacked at the back of one of the steeds with his hangar, before swinging up into the compartment. The rage was still feeling his breast. He did not care for tactics, nor finesse. He simply grabbled with the grinning monster before him, somehow finding the leverage to bring it down and around, so that he could start bashing its smiling skull into the very framework of the chariot itself. He heard Layk and Quinn wrestling with the driver, but he paid them no heed. He did not stop bashing until little pieces of skull began to crack and full through his fingers. Until he saw lines and holes appear, and then he gave it one last blow with a closed fist, and felt a dark satisfaction in his belly as the skull shattered beneath his knuckles.

He looked. He saw the tall plumed helm of the Altrais captain saluting them, calling out, “Well met!!” as if they were simply meeting upon the streets of the village. Even though the entirety of the undead phalanx led by the flaming skull of the liche king advanced behind them.

It isn’t a victory, Tim thought. But he was ready for more. He reclaimed his hangar, and hefted it, ready.

But then a light appeared, flickering and wan about the reaches of the undead horde. It was soft at first, like a dance of fireflies in a summer’s glen, but grew quickly in size and brightness. And suddenly a towering pillar of flame was engulfing the undead warriors. Flames burning a brilliant golden color!! Tim blinked, and he could see the archers advancing with the white clad Sapheri mage among them, her face was covered in dirt and sweat, but there was steel in her eyes, as she held her hand out before her, making the ancient runes of power with her finger tips. He saw dozens of the skeleton warriors disappear in flame as one. Heard there wan cries as the animating spirits were sent forever into the beyond.

And then the advancing figures of the Sapheri swordmasters smashed into the flanks of the unit. The golden fire ignored the elven warriors as they set about them with greatswords that moved with a flickering speed. He saw skeletons shattered and dismembered all about. And more crumbling by the second as the animating magic was lost.

And then with a hideous mangled cry, he saw the Liche King, spitting hatred and spite at the world, consumed in a pillar of golden flame.

And it was over.

They had won.

***


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Day Eight – Epilogue


The end of the battle was nothing like what the legends said it should be. There were no cheers, no celebrations, no shouted hurrahs. Everyone was too tired for that. There was a dazed stumbling as the warriors went about their work: searching the battlefield for survivors or signs of remaining undead, tending to the wounded, finding missing arms and armor. It was like a shuffling of the damned, seen from atop the black rock, battle wearied and stunned elves just meandering here and there, with the occasional moan or cry of the wounded to punctuate the affair. No glittering armor shone in the sun; no streaming pennants or the sound of merry trumpets. Everyone was caked in dust and sweat, where they weren’t covered with drying blood. And Tim realized that he hadn’t taken a wash in days: he was rank.

But the work, as drudge as it was, kept him busy. Once that was over the grief set in. It gripped him like a vice, and wouldn’t leave; it left him trembling and despondent. He found a quiet space away from the others and tried to heave, but his stomach was too empty for that. Instead he collapsed upon the ground and wept, wept like he hadn’t done since he was a small child. He curled into a little ball, arms wrapped about him and sobbed at what he had lost. All those memories turned to bitter vapor now. They were gone. And suddenly he realized, so was he…. Somehow that Narrin’Tim no longer existed. He was a different elf now.

Then it came time to pack and load the ship, more busy work after a long march, but he welcomed it. Welcomed it as a condemned man welcomes the last walk to the gallows – for the finality of it. He was leaving this place behind him, and with it, the body of his most dear childhood friend. Willem had been placed upon a pyre, with so many others – a communal burning that sent shivers through his spine. It was so efficient; so impersonal. But it was all they could do. No tombs would be built on the Cursed Isle; no raised platform to the Wind and Moon, as was the custom of the Romani for their dead. No, here all they could do was hope that Asuryan’s flame would cleanse the dead, and usher their souls to his Golden Fields.

Beside the burning bundle that was his kin, lay one that marked Caleb. Slain fighting the wights in the eastern part of the battle. And that seemed so wrong. That Caleb should die, just like that. No heroism. No…story. He hadn’t even witnessed it. Only learnt it after the battle was ‘won’. And the older veteran was already hours cold. Tanith wouldn’t greave for him. And the other veterans seemed numb to the loss. Two Shadow Warriors dead; and twice that wounded. That seemed like too much to Tim. But then the bodies of the archers were laid on their own pyres, and Tim realized how grim things could be in truth.

Perhaps the only thing worse than winning a battle was losing one?

It was night now. On the morn they set sail once more for Nagarythe…this band of warriors…. This Host of Nagarythe…. The Sapheri girl was coming too. She seemed as changed as he. Her eyes had a blank stare now, and he had scarce heard her speak in the two days following the battle. That was in spite of the fact that her role in the battle had created a great deal of respect, even awe, for her. And for Sapheri as well; all the Nagarathi now spoke of respect when it came to her, the White Tower, and the Swordmasters that were accompanying them back to Anlec. It had been an impressive display of sorcerous might, and martial skill alike.

Yet Tim could not care at the moment. He sat at the edge of camp, on a small perch overlooking a hidden cove, beside the one the Harvest Moon sat in. The waters here were a little more placid – the cove well sheltered on both sides by tall cliffs; but too small for a Lothern warship. The beach was deserted of all but driftwood and patches of swept in seaweed. It was a tranquil little view, and he welcomed it to calm the turmoil inside.

It was late in the night, well after the witching hour, and well into the time he should be taking his repast, and yet he could not sleep. So he sat and stared at the waves gently caressing the shore below. When he saw a small figure slipping down into the cove. The figure was bundled up, and dragging a slender two man canoe behind itself. Curious, Tim left his position atop the cliff and clambered down. The figure did not strike him as an enemy so he made no attempt to hide his movements. When he reached the shore the figure stood waiting for him. It was Layk.

“Do not try to stop me, Tim,” the Lowlander said in a sad voice.

Comprehension immediately dawned for Tim. “You are leaving?” he asked.

“I…I must.”

“But…why?” Tim asked befuddled.

Layk stared out into the waiting waters of the northern ocean. “Can we not just say that I am a coward and leave it at that…?”

Tim shook his head. “You are no coward, Layk.”

The Lowlander sighed and continued to watch the troubled waters. After a few moments he began in a soft voice, “I became a Shado because I am a coward and a traitor, Narrin’Tim.” His voice was as dead and dry as the ash wastes behind them. “No orphan am I. I was born with a mother and father, brothers and cousins. A whole clan of folk. Until…they cast me out and said that I was unknown to them.”

There was a pained smile on his face. “When someone becomes a Shado…it is not a death. It is not a loss like that, with memories and sadness. It is an unbirth. You are one that never was to the clan. You never existed. Never walked. Never cried or nursed as a child. You never were.”

Tim waited, but the Lowlander seemed to have nothing more to say. Finally, he could not bear it anymore. “What happened?” he asked softly.

Layk took a deep, ragged breath. “I…I found a Druchii. Hiding in the woods. He was young. Just a boy, not even our age. Left behind when one of their raids went wrong. He was wounded, and near starving when I found him. And… and I helped him.” The Lowlander shook his head. Maybe in wonderment, maybe in regret; Tim could not tell. “I know we are supposed to hate them. And I do. I hate what they’ve done to us. I hate their cruelty and the slavery. I’ve seen the results of their raids, and heard the stories from the last war. I should’ve slain him myself. Put an arrow in his head, or slit his throat. That is the way, right?” He looked at Tim challengingly. Tim only nodded in response. “Or failing that I should have told the others of the village at least. Allowed the warriors to take him to the elder tree, and hang him from the bough there. But I did not. Instead I tended to him. Helped his wound. I snuck fruit and dried meat out from the village to him. I…I even spoke with him sometimes, when he was alone and frightened. Kept him warm with stolen blankets when the winter started to set in.” The boy’s face had a lost look to it, as he stared out across the water. “And of course when it was discovered…. There was nothing for it. I was made Shado, and that was that. I thought…. I thought the only way to recover my honor… my life… was to seek a death in war. In service with the Host….”

Tim listened, trying to comprehend. “What of the Druchii?” he asked, not sure why that mattered.

“They hung him anyways. After breaking his limbs while I watched,” the Lowlander said in a voice so low that Tim could barely hear it. “I watched the terror on his face as the hammers were brought out. Heard his cries of agony. And then…then they took me to the elder oak. There were two nooses there waiting. They put the one on the Druchii boy first, and I watched as he choked to death in agony. I thought the next one was for me, but they said I didn’t deserve it. Didn’t deserve even that terrible death. I was made Shado right there beneath the tree and its bitter hangings. By all the clan…. My father pronounced the words. My mother refused to look at me…”

Tim had heard of similar stories. Certainly of Druchii executions. Most of the northern raiders would rather die in battle, or kill themselves, then be left behind for the Nagarathi to deal with. There was little pity for the traitor-kin, and even less mercy to be found. It was the way of things.

“But why leave?” Tim asked confused.

“I…I can’t stay,” Layk said in a choked voice. “I…. You… You can do this. This is the life you were made for! I saw you on that battlefield, Tim. Saw you fight. This was what you were meant to be!! But me….?” There was pain writ across the boy’s face. “Tim…before that Sapheri watchtower. Before those cultists from the north. I was terrified. So afraid. I thought it was the end. But I was ready for that. I went there ready for the death blow. Marching there under the standard. I…I wanted it. I didn’t even draw my blade.”

Tim blinked amazed. “What? But all those bodies!”

“Was Him,” the Lowlander answered with a shudder. “He slew them all as I watched. It was… I have seen many terrible things. But as terrifying as the cultists were, Narrin’Tim... I was more frightened by He that stood beside me. His face! It was the Face of Khaine! As in the Old Temples! The eyes. The teeth!! I have seen that before in the ruins of ancient Nagarythe. It was the warrior face of Khaine, coming to claim his due! And it terrified me!! It shook me to the center of my being. I couldn’t watch…. I could barely stand. The blood! And the cruel certainty of it all. I knew… I knew then that I did not belong here. That I would never belong….”

And he fell silent, eyes turned back to the beckoning cold waters. Tim waited a few long moments, not sure of what to say. “If you leave,” he finally tried, “You can never return to Nagarythe. They would hang you for certain this time.”

He couldn’t say the word – ‘deserter’ – but he knew that was what his friend would be called. It seemed a betrayal of sorts; though not the one he expected. Layk had fought bravely. He had done his duty. And yet the clans would not see that. The duty of a Shadow Warrior was measured in centuries. Or in death. There was no leaving otherwise.

“I know,” the Lowlander whispered. He turned and began to push his small craft down and into the water. “This is farewell, Narrin’Tim.”

Tim stood and watched. Should he tell the others? No. There had been enough death these past few days – he would not see another of his friends claimed by Khaine. He watched as Layk tossed his few belongings into the boat. He paused at the last, holding his longbow in his hands, he stared at it. Finally, the Lowlander turned and presented it to him. “This is of Nagarythe. I should not take it. Here. You take it. It cannot come where I am going.”

Tim took the bow. It felt strange in his hands. Strange wood, not matching the familiar curves of his own. “Where will you go?”

“I do not know.” The boy paused. He then stepped into the waves and pushed the little boat before him. As he reached the waist waters, he turned back and said:

“Perhaps someday we will meet again upon the waters of the ocean, Narrin’Tim. Until then…fare thee well.”

Tim watched as the boat gradually disappeared into the darkness. Then he turned, and returned to the camp of the Host of Nagarythe. And his new life.

***













And that's it for me. Once more I have different battles to face in the land of labor and tax attorneys. But as I leave these hallowed shores not forgotten, nor un-lamented, let me just say that as always, if these little tales of Tim's have provided a chuckle or a tear on some lazy, rainy afternoon, then they have done their work, and I am well and truly satisfied.

Allow me to also say that as the elves of Ulthuan face an uncertain future, that as true Asur we do not forget our past as we march forward into the unknown. And that there, within the stories of our mighty forebears, there was one small band of warriors, implacable to their foes, and faithful to their friends, that fought until the end and never gave up on the dream that was Ulthuan...

The Ever Empire.


Narrith lessa kynn'barr! :)



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2015 1:08 pm 
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Well played Sir
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Location: Queensland, Australia
Thanks for sharing another story mate, was good to see how Tim started.

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Narrin’Tim wrote:
These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:36 pm 
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Yes, it was properly heartbreaking, but still, it was good old times.... but... the eagles, did they come in the end?

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:07 pm 
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Well played Sir
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This isn't Lord of the Rings silly~

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Beastly member of The Mage Knight Guild.
Narrin’Tim wrote:
These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 2:01 pm 
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Beautiful...

As I finished reading, it started to rain here. Gently at first, but now heavier, with rivers running across the ground and lightning in the sky. And the first thought to come into my head?

"It's raining in Nagarythe"

Thank you once more, Great Chronicler!


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