The die is cast…

High in the grassy western foothills of the Cathain mountains, two elven shepherds watched the pass head below, oblivious of their wandering flocks. Row upon row of mail-clad troops and cavalry steadily poured from the mountain pass onto the widening valley floor below. To the west, a flight of great eagles circled high above, signaling the presence of the royal armies nearby. The boys were frozen in rapt attention, so much so they did not see a bent old man come sit on the stone between them.

He took hold of the right boy by the shoulder, asking, “What happens below that you don’t offer an old wayfarer neither seat or drink?”

The right boy started violently at the elder’s touch, while the boy to the left nearly fell from his perch. He scrambled in embarrassment to find his water skin, which he soon offered the ancient man. He took it, clasping the boy’s hand in a hoary claw of a hand and drank deeply, sighing in contentment.

“Sorry sir, we didn’t see you come. We were watching the armies below. The men have come out of the east!”

“Aha…I see.”

The voice of the other boy piped up, “Yes, and the armies of Talad and Eruch Ierdo are coming from the west and north.”

At this the old man grew alert, “Oh? They come…both of them? What of the third brother?” He spoke quietly, musing, as though lost in thought and no longer aware of the boys.

“Who do you mean, master…the lord Theans? Everybody knows he’s too deep in his scrolls and books to come this far east. Nobody’s seen him in years!”

“No, Ledajorif Erainor and king Ilai come. I saw them both once, in the grand market at Talad. Great men they are, that’s to be sure. Just wait, and you’ll see those men won’t be coming any further.”

An odd garbled barking sound echoed in the high hills as the ancient one straightened, laughing. “We shall see, we shall see. Now hush.” The hilltop fell silent but for the occasional bleating of sheep.

The man sat forward, eyes gleaming brightly as he peered intently at the scene unfolding on the valley floor below. A single hand absently fondled a lamb that had come to crop near at hand, ignored by the two lifeless forms to either side.

*****

Ilai, King in Adich Tairin, gazed up at the mountain pass. He could see the glint of mail and spears above and had heard the definitive reports of the scouts and the Taladi Jechavin flyers. There was no doubt, they were coming.  The Valthlamari were coming.  What made them choose this time to lay claim to the pass he had no idea, but it was his intention to deny them the opportunity.  In concert with his younger brother Erainor, he would speed the already short-lived humans to an even earlier grave. 

He gave the order to infiltrate the woods, using it for cover as much as possible, and waited for the enemy to arrive. 

*****

Lord Vincent Montgomery surveyed his troops.  He was pleased.  Though the cursed elves were well known to be excellent archers, he had decided to match mastery with mass, and he had chosen to bring nothing but missile wielding troops.  The elves were surely in for a surprise!

He sent his Lieutenant to the north, while he moved forward on the southern flank. 

*****

Erainor watched proudly as his royal guard and the knights of Mount Olat made their stately way through the valley towards the tree line and the pass above. Ilai was hanging back with his troops, hiding among the trees, but what of that, this was a time for decisive action, for his armies to prove their worth. These men were crossing the border long set between, violating the bounds set up years ago and held in lasting peace. Time was they were no longer a threat on Talad’s doorstep.

Emboldened by the martial grandeur of his troops, their training and precision much in evidence, Erainor turned them directly up the hill towards the pass and the waiting human troops, ignoring Ilai’s plan to wait and let the enemy come.

As they neared the pass head, the knights of Mount Olat, with green pennants streaming and bells chiming on silken reigns, broke into a canter, pulling away from the royal guard and the archers. With a cry of ‘Asan Talad, Asan Ledajorif!’ they charged, spears leveled, with only the shadow of the Jechavin fliers above keeping pace.

*****

Vincent looked on bemused as the young elven king and his men charged, hand raised. He counted slowly, dropping his hand with a swift chopping motion as the elves crested the nearest hill. Horses screamed, and many an elf fell, but the charge continued.

The first rank knelt, fitting new arrows, as the rank behind rose, and at Vincent’s signal shot another volley. More carnage met the young lord, and the charge soon devolved into confusion, soon mired further as royal guards and archers finally joined the milling cavalry.

Unworried now, as the cavalry fled, circled tightly around the young king, Vincent left the archers to their gruesome work, wheeling about to join with his lieutenant’s troops to the north, and the more concerning vipers’ nest that waited there among the trees.

An ear-splitting screech above caused his horse to rear suddenly, as great raptors swooped down from above and darts rained like hail among him and his troops. Few fell, and the swiftness of the flying beasts meant retaliation was not an option. Shrugging, Vincent left his men to deal with it as they would. Talad was not a threat.

*****

Wary of the famous accuracy and awesome weapon-craft of the elven archers, Lieutenant Alexander crept slowly down the mountain pass, keeping his men in the trees whenever possible. He was loyal to Vincent, but wasn’t interested in a bloodbath, especially one in which it was his own men’s blood that would supply the bath. So, he kept out of range of the heavy crossbows, biding his time. 

***** 

Vincent was frustrated that his heavy archers were taking so long to move, but his scouts were doing a wonderful job of harrying the southern flank of the enemy, forcing them toward the center, where his heavy cavalry waited patiently, bows at the ready. 

*****

Ilai grew impatient in the rising heat of the day. The Valthlamari forces seemed disinterested in advancing into range of his bows, which he could well understand. As soon as his heavy cavalry finally made it to a position where they could do something, he decided to take the battle to the enemy.  He moved his heavy infantry and crossbowmen out of the woods to tempt the enemy, and it worked — 

*****

Alexander could wait no longer, without raising questions of pusillanimity, so when the infantry and crossbowmen left the cover of the woods, he ordered the cavalry to charge, which they did, with vigor and aplomb.  But it was to be a disastrous mistake, as the crossbowmen proved to be more resilient than expected. 

*****

Ilai watched with glee as the enemy rushed in and was caught in the pincer trap of his crossbowmen and heavy infantry.  They were shattered and dispersed. Taking heart from this fortunate turn of events, he ordered his light archers and cavalry to advance on the enemy positions. 

Pushing his troops relentlessly, Ilai was determined to reach the enemy cavalry, but the ground was rough, slowing his cavalry, and many brave elves fell under the rain of arrows.  Still he pushed on, without thought of consequences, until he was left with only a few of his most trusted kinsmen. That’s when he felt his armor and flesh being pierced.  At first, he thought it was one of the enemy’s arrows that had brought him down, but as he fell from his saddle, he realized that the fatal blow had been struck from behind…. 

Seeing their King fall, the elves of Adich Tairin collapsed in despair, many being routed from the field, far too many falling to the swords and arrows of the Valthlamari enemy. 

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Best served cold.

While the Encounter at Afuthel had been devastating in terms of lost men, the main mission was accomplished, that of gathering intelligence of what the Ierchari were up to.  As Vincent spent the night consoling himself with wine and wenches, the military and political advisors of the region conferred, sifting through the data Vincent had delivered to Uethad.

The next day, Vincent was awakened by a young efilar of the first regiment who hurriedly begged him to make haste to the laronir, the seat, where the Laid Averain awaited him. Cursing the brightness of the sun in the clear blue sky, Vincent dragged himself to his horse and made his way through the already bustling streets of the city to the laronir, imposingly looming above on one of the few hills within the valley of Urotesed.  When he arrived, he found a crowd of advisers, tacticians and other sycophants studying maps and talking in excited whispers among themselves.

Vincent approached the head of a large table where Averain sat, giving him a perfunctory bow. “So, what have your advisors made of the intelligence that was paid for so dearly by my men?”

“It is not what we expected,” replied the laid, “While we have long suspected Ierchar of vile magics and malicious intent, the data you brought back has clearly shown us that Ierchar is just a sideshow, and its leader a second-rate flunky following the orders of the real seat of evil power, the abominable triarchy of Midethair. We have allowed these odious elves to abide at our borders too long. It is there that we must answer this insult, and quickly!  You must go there now, taking with you whatever legions you need to find and crush this insolent puppet!”

“You can resupply and reconstitute your forces at Tarenaida, before striking to the west and decapitating this vile snake before he rears his ugly head again!”

Vincent made another bow, more heartfelt this time. “As you command, my Lord”. As he turned and walked away, a smile crept across his lips.  He looked forward to this mission, which he would dedicate to the men he lost at Afuthel, as well as to his brother Thomas.  It might also be time for his nephew Thomas (the Younger) to whet his blade.

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Smoke and Shadows

Prologue

With only days following the massacre at Uernach, terrible news has spread throughout Valthlamar. The outer villages have grown fearful not only at the unprovoked attack from the mountains of Ierchar, but at the loss of the once great leader Thomas Montgomery.

Vincent (the Prepared) Montgomery returns to the province capital Uethad, enraged at the loss of his brother Thomas. He immediately makes a request to the city council requesting a warband to investigate the matter. The council is eager to know more of the growing concern, but they are weary of Vincent’s motive for vengeance. They agree to his request, but under the pretense that the Jech’aj’Avalnir accompany him in this matter.

Meanwhile, the Ierchari leader, Echlav, has grown frustrated with the news. Although satisfied with the growing fear within the Valthlamar kingdom, the death of such a high profile leader will no doubt draw unwanted attention.

Echlav must be quick to quell any potential threats on the horizon.

Encounter at Afuthel

Thanks to the ultimate sacrifice made by Thomas Montgomery and his fellow companions, many of the villagers had survived the battle of Uernach. And as such, were able to provide much information regarding recent activities within the Iomatori foothills.

Vincent and the accompanying Jech’aj’Avalnir, or Jech as they’re known to many, return to the bloodied fields of Uernach. They examine the area where the villagers believed the Ierchari to have come from. And as they approach, they find a path of broken branches and disturbed brush—no doubt the result of the large serpents the villagers had spoken of and of which Vincent himself heard as his brother helped to defend the front line.

Following the path, they traverse the Iomatori foothills for days until they finally hear the sounds of monstrosities in the distance. They continue onward and as they get closer, can make out what appears to be an ancient fort. They grow weary at first with the prospect of a fortified position, but upon closer inspection, they see time has taken its toll. Many of the outer walls have fallen; even the inner structures appear ragged and unkept.

As they approach the outer walls, they break from their formation. Vincent and his Jech counterpart, Refil, approach quietly with just a few men. As they expected, they find the Ierchari in the distance moving about. At the northern gate, however, they notice two mysterious figures unlike the others. They too, appear to have just arrived.

Vincent eyes the two figures–dressed in long black robes, their faces enshrouded in darkness. He’s uncertain of what they are, but their intentions are clear. Something was going on here and they’ve just arrived to clean it up.

Vincent signals to Refil to come closer. Refil nods, and moves quietly, placing his hand on the wall in front. Vincent motions towards the two figures and begins to speak, but the wall now supporting Refil is too old; it collapses forward.

The sound is unmistakable. The entire Ierchari army looks over in excitement. The two robed figures in the north snarl at the clumsy humans, pointing with their disfigured fingers, and as they do, their fellow Ierchari move in for the attack.

A Valthlamari Defeat

The battle that ensued was a gruesome affair. Vincent and his men though outnumbered, saw opportunity in their position. They charged at the Ierchari in an honorable attempt for first strike, but was met still with fierce opposition. They held strong as best they could until Vincent was forced from the battlefield.

In his final swing, Vincent had knocked one the Ierchari riders from his horse, but as he fell, both Vincent and rider became entangled in the reins. The horse, terrified by the battle, rode off towards the western foothills dragging with it both Vincent and the unfortunate rider.

Meanwhile, the remaining Valthlamari forces pushed forward while the Ierchari pushed back. Arrows rained overhead; the mighty Pigeons of Rathganar flew in from the skies terrorizing the Iercharin monstrosities. The Jech, fighting hard against the unbeatable odds, watched from the distance as enraged orcs transformed into rats. It was a strange sight that would no doubt prove to be an important observation for the council.

In the end, many had lost their lives, but those that survived, took with them information that could yet prove useful.

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Blogging, eh?

WordPress is new to me. I hope this can be seen in the Dragon Rampant category.

Basic Brian is basic.

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The Raid of Uernach

The morning was surprisingly warm as the dwarven merchants trudged down the steep pass that wound through the mountains from Lenor to the Valthlamari border town of Uernach. Heavy mists rose and twisted in aethereal forms, beguiling the senses. Even so the peaks of the thatched roofs could be seen peeking above at the bottom of the slope. They were reaching the end of their journey.

Passing between the stacked stone walls which formed the outer reaches of the townlands, they were startled to hear the quick tread of unshod hooves behind, and shuddered yet more at the reverberating howls which followed. Hunkering down behind the meager protection of the wall, the merchants laid down their burdens and readied their weapons, wary for whatever approached.

Out of the mists, the vague form of horsemen appeared, pursued by wolves.

Not horsemen or wolves however, but centaurs and warg riders loomed out of the mist to raise their bows and rain arrows and darts upon them. The dwarves cried out in warning and challenge, hoping the sounds of the battle would carry to the nearby militia, as they clung to what protection was offered by the wall.

*  *  *

Thomas Montgomery stood watch at the edge of town, annoyed by the mist, the already too warm day, and the milling villagers which swarmed Uernach on market day. Though nothing compared to the old days among the Jech’aj’Avalnir, these days were trying to the nerves. There were always petty arguments and tensions where the multiple races came together, even in the apparent peaceful activity of trade.

Though he had retired hating those he had once served, he still got wistful from time to time wishing for something more meaningful than breaking up bar fights, capturing the occasional thief, or settling the squabbles of uppity merchants. At least among the Jech there had been purpose.

In bored ill-humor, he watched the merchants as they passed him on the way to the market square, coming out of his reverie at a sudden flight of birds from the south path. Standing away from the wall, he gazed into the mist, from which echoed guttural cries and the ringing clash of weapons.

Unsure what awaited beyond the shifting veil, Thomas ordered the scouts and the light foot forward. He hoped the Legionary patrol would be on time today.

*  *  *

Inach stood among the trees on a remote precipice above the small village below, breath quick with excitement. This was to be his shining hour, the first of many missions to come, and his coming of age within the Dralvani…if all went well. Grimacing, he drove that thought away, watching as the forward scouting party of centaurs and wargs rushed down the south pass towards the dwarves. The great serpents with their ragged vestigial wings and wicked claws waited behind, seemed to be sleeping with eyes hooded as they lay on the warming stone. Inach ignored them. They would do as they willed, and better he stayed out of range of their venomous breath.

The ogres snuffled beside him, sensing the alarm in the village below, and the approach of future prey. They broke away charging madly.

Inach tensed, sending forth a mental command of summoning, drawing upon the vivial force of the trees and grass around. Nothing.

He tried again, cursing as he watched the centaurs break against the spears of the dwarves, falling back in disarray. This time he felt a small tug and drain of power siphon through him as roughly armed men appeared from the pass above and began to shamble towards the battle. The grass immediately below Inach blackened and wilted to a rotten waste centered around him. He sighed in pleasure, sending the host on along the pass. They would act as shields if nothing else.

A great clash and howling interrupted the next summons as the ogres broke from the trees upon the dwarves, tossing many across the road. The merchants broke, fleeing for safety.

*  *  *

Horns cried in the north as the vanguard of the Valthlamari legions road in stately column down the main road and into the town. Vincent led on his great charger, eager to reunite with his brother and rest from the dust of the patrol over a pint…or two. It was immediately evident, however, that this was not to be. The villagers milled in the square in apparent panic, and little coherence was to be got from any of them. The horses were mired at the edge of town, unable to break a path through, as many of those within attempted to force their way out.

Instead, Vincent could only watch the upper hills in horror, as with a great snapping and felling of trees and stones great serpents slithered down the slope, jaws agape and fangs gleaming in the morning sun.

*  *  *

Outside Uernach, Thomas watched as the scouts set out, setting his men in a defensive posture. He could hear the crashing approach of something above, as well as the unearthly groaning of things not quite human.

Looking through his spyglass, he could just make out the scouts approaching the further outpost where the apparent conflict had begun, only to recoil in horror at the sudden filling of the glass by hulking ogre, followed by the quick blur that marked the obliteration of both dwarf and scout troops.

Dismayed and shaken, he ordered the immediate charge of his unit, hoping to lend aid to any who might yet live. He didn’t factor on the slope however, which weighed heavily on them in their weighty and ill-fitting armor. Nor did he factor on the ogres’ instincts which allowed them to cast boulders upon them from above, wounding many. He fell back, only to be pursued, the ogres falling to all fours, mouths slavering. They managed the dike just in time to turn back and plant their spears so that most of the beasts were impaled upon them, grunting as they died, continuing with reaching claws to scrabble after their prey. Thomas blew out a breath of relief, just as the horns of the Legionary patrol sounded behind. They would be saved.

*  *  *

The smell of blood drifting up the hill seemed to enervate the serpents, who began to coil and hiss agitatedly, breaking Inach’s attention from a further summons. He backed away nervously, reining in a group of thralls to stand between him and the spiteful beasts. 

*  *  *

With a great crash of branches, small trees and rock, coil upon coil traversed the hill at breakneck speed, one falling upon the light infantry making its way to the dwarves, the other turning its baleful eye on the retired knight.

Thomas stood his ground, as, thankfully, did his men around him. They stabbed and slashed mightily at the scale-clad coils as they twisted among them, attempting to dodge vicious claws and sickening breath. Their weapons shrilled against the hard scales, some finding purchase between only to be dragged from nerveless hands by the great beast’s ceaseless coiling. There was little hope, though trails of blood flowed from many spear heads left embedded in the creature. It raged on.  

Thomas fought on, continually rallying his men, urging them on to the last breath, when finally, he fell nerveless before the full onslaught of the serpent’s toxic breath.

*  *  *

Vincent watched in revulsion and sick satisfaction as his brother rose time and again from within the writhing mass of coils to stab at the great wyrm. The mist was replaced by a streamer of acidic green breath, which seemed to float weightless on the air, but dropped those who stumbled within its embrace.

Vincent laid about himself with the flat of his blade, urging his horse forward, hoping to reach the fray in time. The people were more frantic than ever, a human morass worse than any mud-pocked road traversed in patrol. His nimbler light cavalry managed to break through to finish off the remaining ogres, but Vincent could only watch as his brother fell before the combined might of looping sinew and acrid breath.

Enraged, now beyond caring, Vincent charged his heavy cavalry through the last clumps of panicked citizenry, little caring now for their welfare, breaking through at last to the open townlands at the foothills and base of the pass. Only now, upon reaching this point where his men might be able to turn the tide, the enemy had vanished, whether by magical means or simple retreat he did not know. Only carnage and terror remained.

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New Website for Dancers and Gamers

Check out 2FlightsUp.com

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Carnage a smashing success!

Carnage Con was once again a blast this year.

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