Author Topic: The Road of War  (Read 4217 times)

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
The Road of War
« on: October 10, 2006, 06:42:49 PM »
Chapter One: Torrence

The air hung heavy, bringing lethargy almost unknown in this part of the year. Summer refused to yield its warm grip on the region, even though the tree?s along the edge of the Dawnsbreak Mountains were beginning to show the brilliant browns, reds and gold of autumn. It made for a lazy morning, with many staying inside as the sun moved upwards from the cover of the trees. A few children gathered near the fountain at the center of the village, debating on whether or not to brave Old Man Gardner?s ranch hands in a bid to go swimming in the pond down the slope from the rancher?s barn.

Torrence was a small town, the twenty or so families that called the place home clustering their homes around inn that doubled as the town hall. Many of the men worked in a small ore mine a short distance north of the town, and the others, mostly young men not yet old enough to risk in the darkness of the mine, worked the large herds of cattle the Gardner family maintained in the small hill meadows. A garrison of cavalrymen was stationed outside Torrence, used to patrol the road from the border with Lycaster to the plains just south of Cord?s Crossing.

The town?s watch, which for the most part consisted of a deputy constable or one of the privates from the garrison, stood duty in the steeple of the church. From here there was a good view of the fields surrounding the town, in case a raiding party of orcs descended from the mountains in an attempt to wreak havoc. On this quiet morn the deputy, a lanky youth named Thame who had just been given his badge and shortsword, was leaning against the railing, bored stiff and longing to join his friends, who were clustered below.

?Yo Jaeg! What?s up?? At his call one of the young men looked up from the conversation to where Thame stood.

?We?re gonna go over to Darglan Falls for awhile.? The tow-head Jaegar slipped his arm around one of the young ladies next to him. ?How long you gotta stay up there??

?Until noon.?

?Good, you can bring the food!? Jaegar and the others broke into laughter at Thame?s salute, and the lanky youth turned away to hide his own mirth. Looking out over the silent fields, the winter hay gently waving in the playful breeze, he silently prayed that the morning would go by quickly.

Even as that moved thought his thoughts the breeze brought the soft echo of a horn, the sound haunting in the echoes through the valley. Brow furrowing in puzzlement he turned to look up the road that led to the mine, as did his friends below. It was a sign known by young and old in the village: a horn blown three times in rapid succession, signaling a problem at the mine and for all to come as were able. He waited, but only that one call, now faded, reached his ears.

?Hey Thame, did you hear that?? Another of the boys called from below, and Thame turned to reply when a second clarion note rumbled through the valley. No soft echo of distance though, this call sounded much closer. Whirling back around, Thame?s gaze moved to the tree line overlooking the fields, and more importantly the shadows moving underneath them?shadows that coalesced into a horde of figures, sprinting down the hill at speed toward the village.

The sight stopped the young man cold, in those seconds of indecision had the approaching tide a quarter ways across the fields by the time a trembling hand grabbed the rope to the steeple bell. Thame yanked on the heavy rope as hard as he could, and the clear sounds brought life to a standstill in the village, everyone looking toward the church steeple and the frantic Thame. He was screaming, but only his friends could hear him over the bell, the group turning to run toward their homes, relaying the watchman?s terrified words?

?Barbarians! Northras at the field!?
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2006, 03:40:59 PM »
The fur-clad barbarians swept across the field, and with the cloak of surprise lifted screams now filled the air. As they neared the village the horde split into two groups, with one turning toward the garrison and the other continuing into town.

When the bell had started to toll the cavalrymen stationed here grabbed for the nearest weapon and headed for the doors. Well-trained and battle-hardened, the sight of the incoming barbarians was still unnerving for the outnumbered soldiers. ?Bows!? The captain in charge yelled, pulling his own longbow and nocking an arrow.

?Wait?.wait?.? The captain watched the Northras approached, ignoring the eyes that were moving to him now. ?First rank, FIRE!? Twenty bows sang in near-unison, followed by the hiss of arrows slashing through the air toward the enemy. More than one found their target, and barbarians behind the first found themselves having to suddenly leap to avoid tripping over a fallen comrade.

?Second rank, fire by files?FIRE!? The second rank of bowmen let loose their arrows now in a staggered pattern, even as the first rank drew back now and began to fire at will on the charging invaders. More barbarians fell to the missile assault, but the charge did not falter. As they neared the captain drew his sword and held it high.

?Swords!? The screamed command was barely heard over the raucous cries of the Northras, and the cavalry dropped their bows and stepped back, steel flashing as they drew weapons. A couple muttered quick prayers to Jareth and Leorn, then all was consumed in chaos as the barbarians swarmed over the fence.

*****

?Hey, did you hear that?? Lowering his mining pick, Larn looked to his friend and partner Sigric, who had stopped and was looking back down the dimly-lit tunnel.

?it?s too early for the lunch bell Sig.? Grumbling, the older Larn hefted his pick to strike the unyielding rock again, but the downswing was stopped as Sigric reached over and grabbed the handle of his pick. ? ?Ey now!?

?Sigric held up a finger, to quiet Larn?s protest, and now he heard what had garnered Sigric?s attention: a horn, soft, as though from a distance, a single clear note riding the still air.

?Something?s up.? Without waiting to see if Larn was following Sigric turned and started to jog up the passage, and with another muttered curse Larn fell in behind him. The passage they had been assigned snaked around harder granite points, and it took the two a few moments to reach one of the junctures leading upwards. Others were gathering at the juncture, wear the same puzzled expressions.

It was quickly agreed upon that something wasn?t right, and that they should head to the surface to see what was going on. The trip to the mouth of the mine only took a few minutes, and each man blinked rapidly as they entered the light of the late morning sun.
And as each man?s vision cleared, he found himself facing a wall of fur-clad barbarians, weapons gleaming in the self-same light. The miners closest to the back turned to retreat into the mine itself, only to find other barbarians had dropped down from the rocky overhand, barring their way and completing the circle of steel.

One barbarian, his cheeks covered with the dark-red sworls favored by his tribe, stepped forward to speak in heavily-accented common. ?Ye have a choice, towner?surrender, or me boys will cut ye down where ye stand.?
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2006, 04:33:06 PM »
He looked around the faces of the miners, noting the grim expressions and postures. ?Think about tha? women and wee bairns, and what tha? winter?ll do tae them without the menfolk.?

?They?ll starve with or without us!? An angry voice rang out from near the center of the grouped-up miners. ?You bastards come in here and take our food and gold, and leave us with nothing!? The rest of the encircled men grumbled in agreement, and the barbarian held up a hand, as though warding away the accusation.

?We aint here for your food or shiney coins. We?re here for the plains-boys.? The barbarian stepped back and looked around to his kinsmen. ?Bring ?em on, boys. Whether it?s on their feet or backs be their decision.?

*****

There was little time to react, the townspeople slamming doors and barring them as best they could. The younger women bustled children into the basements, while their parents clutched whatever could come to hand for a weapon. On the lips of many, prayers to whatever gods could be thought of.

The Northras thundered into the village, sweeping like a brown tide toward the center square and the building housing the burgomiester?s and constable?s office. Three of the barbarians in the lead stumbled and fell from bowshot, only to have the ones behind leap over them and smash into the door, sending it flying off its hinges in a shower of splinters. The three men in the front room, constables of the district by virtue of past service to the dutchy, threw down their bows, unwilling to die to overwhelming numbers.

Outside, the barbarians were moving to block the ways into town, pulling wagons taken from nearby yards across the dirt roads to form barricades. Back at the square the three guards were taken outside and forced to kneel near the fountain, where they were soon joined by young Thame, the lad sporting an already-blackening bruise to his cheek, and the burgomiester Dunhelm Rohrig. Dunhelm looked in the direction of the garrison, but the black smoke pouring into the air left little doubt of what had occurred there.

?You are the leader here?? One of the Northras, wearing a heavy bearskin cloak and sporting intricate tattoos across his forehead, squatted next to the burgomiester. ?Of course ye are. Good, ye can walk with me.? Durnhelm started to protest, but the heavy hand of another barbarian hauling him to his feet stopped any words. The smaller man was forced to walk alongside the larger Northras, a chieftain he guessed by the raiment.

?We aint here for your food, or your treasures.? The barbarian was saying, sweeping a hand around to encompass Torrence. ?So don?t worry about that. And we won?t be putting the town to the torch.? Dunhelm looked at the warrior, confused.

?I don?t understand. Why have you attacked our town then?? His question brought a bark of laughter from the barbarian, who stopped to look over at him.

?Ye?ll get the answers, when our warmaster arrives.?
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #3 on: February 16, 2007, 12:28:26 PM »
As it became apparent that they would neither be killed nor despoiled, the citizens of the hamlet fell into a fitful wait. Inaction aside, it was unnerving to see the heavily armed patrols of fur-clad barbarians roaming the streets, given their reputation. The elders of the village, remaining indoors with their families, whispered of practices grisly to civilized ears. ?Them?s devil-worshippers.? They would hiss, casting a glance at the closest window. ?They be in league with tha? pit. Demogorgon?s children!? Mothers would hold their children close, chiding the elder about scaring the young ones.

Had they known the truth, they would also have been scared.

Almost an hour after the Northras had taken control of Torrence, the men from the mine were marched into the village, where they were told to join their families. The only thing the invaders currently demanded was that people remain indoors. Any found roaming the streets would be considered the enemy. Thus, the men were forced to remain apart, unable to plan an effective counterattack, even though most had weapons available in their homes. Only the constables, young Thame and Dunhelm were kept from their families, the constables kept in the square under heavy guard, and the burgomiester taken to his office to await the warmaster.

*****

An uneasy quiet fell on the village, until the sun was descending behind the peaks of the mountain range, when riders were spotted moving down the road toward the town. Challenges were made, countersigns given, and the small troop moved into the town itself. Faces peered out windows of the building alongside the small street, growing pale at the sight of the nightmares, with their flame-wreathed hooves and manes, but if the riders cared, or were even aware of the scrutiny, they gave no outward sign.

The six dismounted in front of the fountain, warriors taking the reigns of the nightmares as the knights dismounted. There was a slight pause, as steel-grey eyes peered from behind a skull-embossed helm at the kneeling constables, and then the gaze moved to one of the Northras standing guard. ?Remove them, and lock them up for now.?

?Ja, milord.? A heavy fist thumped against a fur-clad chest, and the men were hustled to their feet, in one case having to be helped to stand as aching knees tried to give way. The knights turned away and moved toward the doors of the burgomiester?s offices, the barbarians snapping to a semblance of attention as they entered.

Dunhelm stood up behind his desk as the lead knight entered, his gaze taking in the archaic designs on the armor, though the eight-pointed star wheel on each shoulder appeared a more recent addition. Any further inspection was delayed, however, when the knight reached up and removed his helm, auburn hair falling to hang shoulder-length over the heavy cloak. Helm tucked under his left arm, the right hand moving away from the haft of the greataxe slung over a shoulder, the knight inclined his head toward Dunhelm.

?Well met, Burgomiester Rohrig. I am Lucius DeAuster, and we have matters to discuss.?
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2007, 10:57:25 AM »
?You can?t be?that?? For a second words failed Dunhelm, the stories he had been told as a child echoing hauntingly as the figure in front of his desk slipped the greataxe from his back and sat down with the soft creak of wood and leather. The heavy weapon was leaned against the desk before Lucius sat back in the chair, fingertips pressed together before him.

?I can?t be what, burgomiester?? A russet brow rose slightly, accompanied by a soft rumble of laughter. ?Put the stories you have heard aside. We deal with the real today.?

?I suppose it would be too much to demand that you and your people leave Torrence?? Dunhelm felt lightheaded as he settled into his chair, a hand moving to push away the thinning hair from his face. Behind Lucius the tall barbarian Dunhelm had spoken to earlier broke into laughter, though the third, in armor similar to Lucius?s in design, remained silent, standing by the door and looking for all the world like a statue.

?Good. You?re keeping an even head about yourself. That will make this easier.? There was a trace of a smile as Lucius waved a hand toward the barbarian. ?This is Javvik, war chief of the Lamoss Northras. The quiet one is Sir Herzog.? Hazel eyes flicked to each in turn, and then returned to Lucius, Dunhelm nodding slightly in acknowledgement to the introductions. Lucius noted the man?s silent nod and continued. ?First, an explanation. By taking this village, I have declared open intentions against your former master.?

?Lord Urevan.? The ruler of the dutchy, known for his appetites. Latest of his line to sit on the throne of Cisroe, the current Urevan was generally thought of as a poor replacement for his father by many, though he enjoyed the backing of the ducal court and Cisran Council. Excesses, in both the lavish lifestyle and the inherent tax burden of the people, led to a simmering discontent. Something Lucius and Fiona found ripe for the exploit.

?Indeed. And for his insult, I plan to take away that which he loves the most.? Any joviality feld from his features, as Lucius stared hard at Dunhelm.

?But what about my people? The villagers?? The burgomiester waved a hand toward the door, reminder of those who waited in their homes.

?They will not be harmed, unless they try to hinder us.? Leaning forward, hands came to rest on armored knees as Lucius continued. ?For now, Burgomiester Rohrig, we do not want your land. We do not want your gold, nor will we pillage your food stores. If it comes to needing livestock or ore from your mine, we will pay a fair price for them.?

He paused for the time it took him to lean back in the chair again, his eyes never leaving Dunhelm?s. ?Later, when I have finished with Urevan, new laws will be put into place. Until then, as long as you stay out of our way, we will leave you be.?

The words had caught Dunhelm by surprise. Not the rough syntax of the barbarians, but a more cultured phrasing. It had put him off guard, and the message took a second to sink into his whirling thoughts. ?That sounds?a bit too good to be true.? He said at last, casting a glance toward the hulking Javvik. The Northras caught the look and grinned, teeth flashing in the brown flow of his beard.

?If the Northras had wanted to merely raid, do you think the village would still be wholly intact?? Lucius replied, a brow arching slightly. ?Torrence is the closest settlement with a garrison to Cords Crossing. I needed to remove the threat at my doorstep before I began to march.? It made sense to Dunhelm, who knew the lay of the region as well as any.

?Alright. If you do not plan to steal from us, what exactly do you want from the village?? At Dunhelm?s question Lucius rose to his feet, reaching out to take his greataxe in hand. Dunhelm also stood up, and at a wave of invitation the two headed for the door and the porch beyond, Javvik and Sir Herzog falling in behind them.

?I want you to calm your people, burgomiester. Tell them that as long as they do not try to aid Urevan or attack us, they will be left alone.? Lucius looked toward the shorter Dunhelm, who was watching the other knights who had accompanied Lucius swing back into the saddle. ?Go about your lives as normal. We will have patrols in the area, and Javvik will be making his camp in those woods there.? He pointed toward the green treeline north of the village, beyond the fields of waving grain. ?But they will not interfere with your people, as long as nothing is done toward them.?

?I will?do my best.? Dunhelm said, uncertainty creeping into his tone.

?That?s all I ask. And if you have questions, send a runner to Javvik?s camp. He?ll be happy to answer, or pass it along.? The skull helm was set back in place as Lucius walked down the porches steps and mounted the waiting nightmare. Looking to Javvik he said something in the guttural language of the Northras, who nodded in reply, a fist rose to tap his upper breast once.

?A new time is coming, burgomiester.? Lucius again looked to Dunhelm, and raised Drachmel in salute. ?How your village will fare, is up to you.?
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2007, 05:14:23 PM »
??And with Terrak taking Dailmar, we now have a line encircling Cord?s Crossing, anchored in the mountains.? Lucius slowly traced an imaginary line with his finger over the map, drawing a nod from Javvik and Lord Unthor. The Lamoss warchief leaned over, and pointed to the small dot representing the city of Briarstone. Sir Herzog stood near the entrance to the tent, a silent sentinel to the small meeting.

?Who will be leading the assault on the city?? the barbarian looked between the other two, and there was no mistaking the eagerness there. Javvik and his men lusted to be in the thick of the push east, showing their tribe?s worth. Lucius shook his head slowly as he straightened from the lean over the table.

?Lord Unthor?s Bloodbonded will lead the charge into Briarstone.? A wide grin split the normally dour visage of the berserker, as a mailed fist came up to bang the chestplate of his crimson armor. ?Since Terrak and Jerrak have both seen fighting, they will hold the flanks, along with Bailneth?s calvary.? Javvik made to reply, to protest, but then just shook his head slowly. Catching the cloud that had come over the barbarian?s features, Lucius clasped a fur-covered shoulder in a firm hand.

?There is no dishonor for you and your clan in this. I need you and your people to hold this line, in case the duke has more alliances than we know of at this time.? He glanced over to Lord Unthor before continuing. ?And, your tribe already claims the honor of landing the first blow in this conflict. Shouldn?t you share the glory just a bit??

?That?s right, you honor-monger.? Unthor chimed in, taking the bait Lucius had laid out. ?Time to let some of us have a turn.?

?But, most importantly, I am tasking the Lamoss in helping guard Gharnholme. And I do not consider that an honor-less task by any means.? That, more than any of the previous words, had the war-chief finally nodding.

?Yes, milord. We will protect the hold above all.?

?Excellent! Now that??Lucius paused, the three men turning toward the tentflap as it was pulled back by one of the Northras.

?Riders approach, from the village, if the dress be any telling.? Javvik nodded to the sentry, and then turned back to Lucius.

?Find out what they are about, Javvik. And let?s hope the burgomaster is not a fool.?

*****

Lucius and Unthor waited in the tent as Javvik and his entourage met with the riders, who had stopped outside the edge of the camp under the white flag. The two made no talk, each quietly considering the ramifications of this meeting between plainsdweller and mountainborn. If the village balked, it would tie down elements of Javvik?s clan that were needed in elsewhere. According to the messages from Terrak, many of the people of Dailmar had fought alongside the small garrison that had been stationed there, and the warlord of the Black Tiger clan was moving more of his warriors into the town than initially anticipated.

Should Torrence not agree, Javvik would have to do the same here, and the Lamoss, one of the smallest of the mountain-dwelling Northras, would be stretched dangerously thin. No, should the village decide to resist, Lucius would be forced to keep Terrak back to pacify Dailmar, which in turn would stall plans for seizing Briarstone. Amazing, how so much rests on the decision of one man.

They heard the approach of Javvik before the warchief actually entered the tent, bearing a small piece of paper. Wordlessly he handed it over to Lucius, who took it in silence and opened the fold to read. Javvik and Unthor looked to one another as a smile grew on the bearded features, eaching feeling a rush of adrenaline as Lucius looked up, first to Javvik.

?Dunhelm has agreed, and wishes to meet with you to discuss the terms of your stay.? As Javvik nodded acceptance Lucius turned his gaze to Unthor next. ?Lord Unthor, see to moving your men here, and prepare to for the march east.? The steel-gray eyes moved over each again, then back down to the map laid out on the table. ?When Jerrak and Terrak have resupplied and arrived, we move.?
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2007, 06:00:03 PM »
Chapter 2 - Briarstone

?Man?can?t see a damned thing?? Grumbling to himself, the young soldier walked along a small creek-bottom, clutching his spear in nervous hands as he looked from side to side. Trees to his left were indistinct shapes in the swirling vapors, a dark menace that did nothing to calm his fears. All within Briarstone knew of the gathering army in the hills west of the city, and had stories of demons coming from the deep forest to feed on the flesh and souls of mortal men. Stories that made many a young man, like Ewrin, dread having their name called for the dreaded sentry pickets.

Word of the initial surge from the mountains had filtered into Briarstone from those who had managed to flee the villages of Dailmar and Helvenya, and nearly created a panic in the small city. The occasional incursion by barbarians or goblinoids was expected, but what the refugee?s were describing hadn?t been seen in nearly two generations. The militia had been put on immediate alert, while the able-bodied men of the city were pressed into service to build an earthen berm across the western approaches, a hastily-drawn line in the sand.

And for the last two weeks, the militia and conscripted men of the city manned the earthworks, waiting for the attack that had, at first, seemed imminent, but now was appearing to be less likely. The mayor of the city had been out to the marketplace daily to extol the populous to remain calm, and that the Lord Urevan would see to the heathens. His words had been bolstered a week previous, when a small company of mercenaries had arrived, setting a camp to the east of the city. But, as day after day passed with no sign, the sell-swords were becoming increasingly peevish, with more than one spending a night in the local lockup for brawling. The mercenary commander refused to have his men scout the roads west of Briarstone, insisting that duty fall to the militia.

The white wall that encompassed Ewrin was brightening, heralding the welcome coming of the morning sun finally burning back the thick fog. Deciding he had gone far enough up the creek the young man turned to head back, and froze. A dark mass was moving through the fog in front of him, and now that he was paying attention again he could hear the muffled sounds of armor and leather, the lifting fog having muzzled the noise before. Coming out of his momentary freeze of shock, he hopped over the bank of the small creek and lay down, peering over the rim of the water-cut earth. A sizeable force was moving from the tree line into the clear area surrounding the creek, and he had walked directly in front of them unknowingly. Only the heavy fog had saved him from being seen by the approaching host.

 He lay there for several minutes, watching rank after rank of Northras move down the trail toward Briarstone, finally followed by two warriors on horseback. Both clad in plate armor, both of ancient trappings and design, though one was of ornate ebon that almost seemed to drink in the morning light. The young man waited until they had disappeared around the bend, and then remained still for a moment longer before he rose and quickly started in the opposite direction.
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2007, 05:59:13 PM »
It was a glorious sight that awaited Lucius as he crested the hill and looked down upon the small city of Briarstone. The decision to wait to attack and then move under the cover of the heavy fog was already paying dividends, catching the defenders by surprise. He could hear the horns across the short plain as the startled defenders scrambled along the berm, while directly below him his own forces were moving into position. To the left the Black Tiger tribe gripped their swords in anticipation, while to the right, Terrak?s twin Jerrak was forming his marauders, axe and bow wielding Kargash that moved behind a line of shield-toting brethren.

The center of the line was held by the mail-clad warriors of Lord Unthor, their crimson armor gleaming in the morning sun. Blood glistened on the chest plate of each, marking them as a member of the Bloodbound. Not a singular tribe, they were drawn from all the tribes of the Northras, warriors who felt the bloodlust so keenly they heard the whisper of Guillaer in the roar of racing heartsblood. One of the men in the front rank carried a ragged banner, emblazoned with the clenched fist of Gharnholme imposed over the eight-spiked compass of Pandemonium. Unthor stood beside the standard-bearer, his longsword held high in the air, preparing to lead his forces forward.

?Now.? At the single growled command the youth standing beside Dante raised a large ivory horn to his lips, blowing a clear deep note. As the call echoed across the plain Unthor?s sword dropped, and the mass of warriors started forward. The Bloodbound began a low chant, in time with their march, steadily building in intensity as they approached the berm and helping to work the Chosen into a murderous rage. The Black Tigers and Kargash followed slightly behind, the warlords wisely keeping their men out of the path of Unthor?s men.

When the first arrows started to fly toward the invaders Terrak started to lag behind Unthor, allowing the Chosen with their heavier armor to shield his more lightly armored marauders. The Chosen continued forward without pause, ignoring the flight as so much rain, even one who had an arrow find a soft spot between joints and strike home. Jerrak?s shield-bearers raised their tower shields, blocking the archers behind, who started to wildly return fire. Several fell behind, clutching shafts that protruded from legs and arms, but their arrows also began to thin the defender?s ranks.
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2007, 05:23:08 PM »
Captain Ranulf Brand watched the approaching ranks with narrowed eyes, silently cursing as his archer?s efforts were less than effective. The left had been thinned slightly, but the heavily-armored center continued unabated. If they could not stop at least some of those, they didn?t stand a chance. ?Concentrate fire on the center oblique!? Company commanders took up the call, and the angry buzz of arrows shifted toward the crimson warriors approaching. ?Where are those damned mercenaries??

He was unaware that those words had been spoken aloud until he heard a ?Sir?? from beside him. His aide, a scrubbed-face youth who had recently joined the Briarstone militia, had stepped forward, awaiting his command. Brand absently noted that he had a wild-eye excitement, a tell-tale of this one?s freshness to combat.

?Go and find out what?s keeping our hired ?friends?.? Sending the youth on his way with a wave of his hand, Brand returned his attention to the building battle. The sniping fire continued on both sides, and he walked down the line, giving encouragement to both the archers and the waiting men-at-arms crouched behind the berm. While some had seen battle before in driving back the periodic raids by the barbarians and orc tribes of the mountains, too many on that line were seeing the elephant for the first time.

Brand had returned to the center of the line when his aide returned, gasping for breath. ?Gone?they?re..gone..? He managed between breaths, holding his side as he heaved for air.

?What?? Brand whirled to look down the broad avenue that ran through the center of town. He saw pale faces at the windows of the building, the citizens trembling within their homes, hoping their militia could save them. But it was the cloud of dust on the other side of town that drew the curse, and he fumbled for the spyglass at his side. What he saw both chilled the blood and drew out another snarled epithet.

The mercenaries were riding hard down the road that led to Cisroe, cutting the armed defense of Briarstone by a quarter as well as leaving the back of the town defenseless in their retreat. Brand cursed again, bringing the glass down as he was bumped from the side. His temper boiling, Brand looked over to reprimand the young boy, but the words died upon seeing the black shaft protruding from either side of his neck. The young man was gasping, trying to speak, but only managed a croak as he slumped forward into Brand?s arms. The veteran swiftly lowered him to the ground, even as he was looking toward the left, where panicked shouts were coming, something about a charge. Brand levied a hate-filled wish against mercenaries, barbarians and noblemen in general as the defenses started to fall apart around him.
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2007, 11:23:12 AM »
Jerrak?s marauders gave a hoarse cheer as the heavily armored knights rumbled past them, galloping in a line toward the berm. Dripping blades bared, they barreled up the side of the earthen rampart and over, into the men behind. Pushed back by the charge, the defenders further recoiled at the visages of the attacking knights, for each bore the pox-marks of plague, the scarlet boils stark against sickly-gray skin. Sallow eyes peered from rusty helms, the very metal itself threatening to fall to the decay of the wearer.

The younger men staggered away, overcome by a wave of revulsion at the plate-clad monstrosities before them, two turning to flee, but were stopped by the sergeant overseeing this part of the berm. ?Get in there!? He bellowed, turning the two around and shoving them back toward the melee. ?Hold your ground!? Bolstered by their sergeant?s commands and the presence of older veterans who refused to run, the others moved back in, their sense of duty overwhelming their fear.

Two of the knights were dragged down from their mounts in the ensuing melee, bringing a ragged cheer from the defenders who redoubled their efforts at seeing that their enemy could indeed be brought low. But the true danger of that charge crested the berm behind the battle, at first unnoticed by those trying to drive back the knights. Burnished mail glittered in the sunlight, cold blue eyes narrowed under a helm cast in the visage of a snarling beast as he surveyed the fight before him. Raising a hand toward the battle, the figure muttered a single word, calling forth a billowing grey-green cloud from the warp to enfold the melee, seeping from the ground and swirled around the legs of those embattled along the berm. The effects of the fog were immediate on all it touched as it rolled down into the trench below.

  As they breathed in the vapors the knights seemed to shudder and then began to press their attacks with wide-eyed vigor, each swing of a weapon stronger than the last. For the defenders of Briarstone, however, the fog had a more deadly reaction. Lungs began to burn from the noxious cloud, some staggering away from the battle holding their sides in pain only to be struck down, others simply falling to the ground as they succumbed to the pestilence unleashed.

Their leader, the sergeant who had rallied the men previously, was the last to fall. Feeling the mystical mist burning his lungs, he coughed once, then again, almost doubling over as pain suddenly racked his insides. He felt his stomach roil, and then gagged as he retched, only to stare in horror at the blood and small wiggling worms in his bile. Biting back a strangled outcry he struggled to his feet, determined to defend his home to the last. He staggered back as a dark form reared up before him, the grey-green armor making it hard to tell where the metal ended and the flesh began. He raised his sword in an attempt to defend himself, only to have it batted away almost contemptuously by the champion of the knights. The blow sent him reeling back and the last thing the doomed sergeant saw as he regained his footing and turned around was the rusty battle-axe slicing down.
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2007, 11:35:06 AM »
As the knights crashed into the city?s defenses the rest of the advancing line charged, a thousand ragged cries intermingling into a single roar. Bowmen let loose with a last flight before dropping their bows to snatch up their swords and hurrying forward to back those already in place. The militia was well-drilled, the swordsmen standing in close ranks, shields rising before them as the enemy crested the berm. In stark contrast, the Northras lines were more akin to an unruly mob as they slammed into the defenders of Briarstone.

Captain Brand had been moving toward the embattled left when the first barbarians descended. He met one?s charge with bared steel, his longsword biting deep into the bared chest to pierce the heart. Even as the dying marauder continued past, he used the momentum to spin around and almost decapitate the next.  The two kills were lightning quick, and for a second Brand lost track of the battle. Staggering back down the earthworks he was able to take a quick look about.

All around him was a swirling melee, as the militia fought against the numerically superior barbarians. Cries to heathen gods mingled with the yells of his men, and he added his own voice to the din as he waded back into the press, to be met by one of the armored warriors, a bloody axe held in either hand. With another shout Brand stepped close, sword flashing in the morning sun, only to have it glance aside against the broad face of one axe. The return blow vibrated his entire arm, forcing a grunt of pain from him as he again slashed, seeking a weak spot in the heavy armor.

Stepping back, Brand?s foot caught on the leg of the first he had slain, and he momentarily lost his balance. As he fell back his opponent cried out in triumph and rushed forward, both axes raised to hammer the deathblow home, only to have fate, in the form of another soldier, step in. The militia-man, blood staining the front of his padded armor, bounced off the barbarian?s side, breaking his momentum as he paused to throw the dying man aside, giving Brand the opening he needed. Lunging forward with no finesse whatsoever, the sharp blade found a crease in the armor and bit deep into his enemy?s belly. The twin weapons dropped to the dusty ground as the marauder gripped at the blade protruding from his abdomen and slowly sank to his knees, falling beside the gasping veteran with a heavy thud.

Brand slowly got to his feet, chest heaving as he sucked in much-needed air. All around the battle swirled in a chaotic frenzy, and more Northras were coming over the crest. His men were holding for the moment, even with the left caving in under the attack there, and the veteran felt a brief flash of pride for his men. Again cursing the cowardly mercenaries, he plunged back into the fray, rallying the militia with his cries.
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2007, 11:37:03 AM »
?Look out!? Suddenly rising, the scout that had been crouched next to Cieara in the lush undergrowth pulled an arrow from his side-hung quiver, drew back and fired in a single motion. His target, one of several horsemen that had suddenly appeared in a thundering rush toward the treeline, sagged against his mount as the arrow found its mark. All around the young DeAuster scouts were rising from the bushes and moving from behind trees where they had been hiding to snipe at this sudden threat. For their part, the horsemen spurred onward, heedless of their danger.

One bore down on Cieara and the scout, almost too fast to move away. The scout leapt to the side, his bow flying away in his scramble, but Cieara reacted by leaping straight up, propelled by the preternatural strength her family was graced with. The young woman?s jump brought her even with the rider as he galloped by, and the heel of her boot connected with his temple, sending him for a tumble from the saddle. Reacting without thought, the hours of training with Fiona came to the fore, her other foot came down against the horse?s flank, giving her another push that took her even higher to grab a tree-limb.

Momentum spun her around the limb, in time to meet another of the riders as he charged under her tree. Cieara landed neatly behind the rider, who twisted in surprise at his passenger, but she didn?t give him any more time to react, plunging Vestia deep into his side, then again. Even over the thunder of hooves she could hear the daggers delighted gurgle as it began to feed. The rider shouted in pain, grasping at Cieara in an attempt to defend himself, but succeeded only in pitching over, dragging the youth with him.

Letting go of Vestia, Cieara tucked herself into a ball, ripping her sleeve away from her opponent as they fell, and rolled to a stop in a crouch near the bush she had been hidden in originally. From the snap of his impact, she didn?t think he would be getting up again. Nor did she have time to ponder more, as the first man that she had de-horsed as rising to his feet, shaking his head to clear the cobwebs. The scout she had been hidden with, having drawn a long dagger, moved toward the fallen horseman, only to hop back as the other drew a gleaming longsword and lashed out. Cieara glanced around, spying the one she had just killed, and sprinted over to snatch Vestia from the corpse?s side.

A cry of pain brought her attention back, in time to see the rider running toward her, the bloody longsword raised high to cleave her in two. She rolled to the side as he slashed down, coming smoothly to her feet in time to block the next blow with her dagger. Her whole arm was thrown wide by the impact, and as she stumbled backwards the mercenary raised his sword again to run her through.

A blow that would never fall, as an arrow slammed into his chest, driving him back a step, Another arrow hit just below the first, pitching him onto his back with a strangled gasp. Cieara looked around, a smile parting her pale lips as she saw the crouched form of her friend Delana high up an oak. Perched on a large limb, she drew back another arrow, preparing to let fly again, but it wasn?t needed. All around the scouts were finishing off the men who had blundered into their hiding place, a few looking to their own wounded. Sliding the hissing Vestia into its sheath, Cieara jogged over to the tree, joining Delana where she sat on the limb, the bow held in one hand. ?Nice shooting!? she gasped as Delana helped her up with her free hand.

?Not bad yourself!? Delana replied with a breathless laugh, giving her friend a quick one-armed hug as she settled onto the perch. ?Not that you needed the help or anything.? Cieara nodded in reply, giggling softly as her breathing slowed back closer to normal.

?Compared to Mum, those guys were a piece of cake.? She looked out toward the city in the distance, her sharper vision able to see the details that were mere shadowy mass to Delana. ?They?ve taken the wall!? she pointed toward the berm, and the milling mass there. ?I bet it won?t be long now!?
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2007, 11:07:06 AM »
Another barbarian fell before Brand in a spray of arterial blood, allowing the captain a chance to glance around. His men were slowly giving back under the press of the Northras, despite their valiant effort to stop the horde. Realizing this, he had pulled one of his younger soldiers away from the press and sent him away toward Cisroe, with orders to report on what had befallen the city and the treachery of the mercenaries. He smiled grimly, taking a small comfort, for even if they failed the invaders were paying a heavy price for their victory.

Toward the center Brand heard a ragged shout go up, and the fleeting hope that his men were turning back the black tide had the captain running back in that direction, shouting for his men to keep up the fight. As he neared that part of the battle line though Brand saw his worst fears realized. The Northras had broken through, forcing the thinning line back into their fellows on the right, a slowly-tightening noose around the defenders of Briarstone.

Brand started forward, but quickly halted as two riders thundered over the berm, sending two soldiers tumbling from the heavy blows of their weapons. Ignoring the chill that washed over him, the captain raised his sword and shouted out a challenge. One of the riders, upon hearing that cry, looked toward Brand, crimson eyes narrowing before he slid from the saddle. Twirling the greataxe he held in his right hand as if it was a toy, he advanced on Brand, who gripped his shield tightly as he also moved forward.

Sword met axe-blade with a shower of sparks, and Brands second strike thudded against the wooden shaft of as his opponent continued the circle. Brand grunted as the axe whirled around to slam into his shield, driving him back from the sheer force of the blow. The warrior roared as he charged in, double-handing a slash that would have cleaved Brand in two, had he not ducked forward.  He took advantage of the opening, slicing along the flank as he lunged past his heavily-armored opponent.

A growl of pain accompanied the splash of blood that gleamed wetly against the ebon armored hip, and the other stepped back, eyeing Brand cautiously. For his part the captain circled around, sending in careful strikes that were banged away by the ever-moving greataxe. Brand grimaced from the ache in his shield-arm, but continued to press his attacks home, waiting for a second opening. An opening that came a moment later, as one of his subordinates backed into the warrior while trying to escape two of the marauders.

Surprisingly quick despite the baroque armor the dark warrior spun, the axe glinting in the light as it spun around to bite deep into the soldier?s shoulder. Just as quick the weapon was jerked back, but Brand had proved the faster. His sword slammed into the axe?s shaft just above the warrior?s right hand, forcing him to let go and drop the weapon. Using his momentum Brand shield-bashed the warrior back, then aimed a wicked slash to disembowel him. A jump back almost escaped the blow, with only the sword-tip slicing past the chain-mail and drawing more blood.
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2007, 11:07:30 AM »
The warrior took a step back, his right knee slipping to the ground as he held his side, covering the wound. Brand whooped a war cry and sprang forward, intent on finishing his opponent in the second?s pause. The realization that he had been trick was a hot flash of surprise when the warrior?s eyes, which had half-closed, suddenly narrowed more, locking with his. The warrior?s hand flashed out, sending a spray of blood from the hip-wound arcing into Brand?s face. The captain screamed in pain, his sword dropped to the ground as he clutched at his face, where the blood was burning like acid into his flesh. Stumbling away, he did not see his opponent rise to his feet, nor did he see the blades that snapped down from the back of the heavy gauntlets.

Pain blossomed in Brand?s stomach, and watering eyes opened to again stare into the crimson-glowing eyes that glimmered behind the embossed helm. Clutching at the left hand that was jammed against his belly, Brand could only scream in agony as, with a grunt, the warrior lifted his arm, hauling the captain into the air by the impaling blades. Another howl, this one of triumph, echoed as the right arm came back, and then slammed home against Brand?s chest, the blades piercing a lung and nicking his heart. He was lifted higher for a moment, his feebly-struggling body displayed for the few militia that still opposed the Northras, before the warrior brought his arms wide to either side, ripping the blades through Brand?s sides. Fountains of blood and gore soaked both the warrior and those nearby, and as the body slammed to the ground he raised his arms to the sky.

?Blood for the Blood-god!? DeAuster?s throat was raw as he screamed the benediction toward the heavens, the guttural cry quickly taken up by those nearest him and spreading down the berm. With the death of their captain the last of the militia began to surrender, to be herded into small groups held under guard. Stooping down, Lucius picked up the hissing Drachmel, idly noting the tinges of crimson spreading throughout the broad blades as the bound guillaersk fed. Slipping the weapon into it?s holder on his back, he turned as his commander?s approached. Terrak was laughing and slapping his twin Jerrak?s shoulder, bringing a light-hearted punch to his ribs in return. Lord Unthor was more subdued, but Lucius could see the glint in his eye that heralded the bloodlust lurking just beneath the surface.

?Unthor, I want your men to clear and prepare this berm. I want the town prepared to repel any attack.? That would keep the Chosen busy and away from the citizens of the city while their bloodlust was up. ?Jerrak, disarm any constabulary this place has, then secure the council chambers. After that, start rounding up any government officials.? The chaos lord looked to his third commander. ?Terrak, secure these prisoners, and then send out for our scouts.? Each nodded as they received their instructions, and then moved to carry them out. Turning, Lucius motioned the waiting Sir Herzog over, from where the skeletal warrior had silently stood. ?Herzog, return to the camp, and have it move down. Inform Myrialla we have several wounded.?

With typical silence the undead knight nodded, then reined the nightmare he rode up and around. Flaming hooves pawed the air as it reared, then both demonic mount and its rider faded from sight. Lucius turned back toward the city, and a slow predatory grin bloomed hidden behind his helm.

Briarstone was theirs.
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]

Lucius DeAuster

  • Moderator
  • Old Wyrm
  • *
  • Posts: 311
    • View Profile
Re: The Road of War
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2008, 12:07:35 PM »
Chapter 3 - The Battle for Cisroe

?Damn this fog!? Captain Siemon Morgan of the Cisroe Duchal Guard swore to every god he could think of as he stared out at the undulating vapors obscuring the fields below the walls of the city. With the coming of spring, the weather had been clear and welcoming after the hard winter, until earlier when guards reported a wall of fog moving in from the bay. Watching the mist roll across the bare fields had chilled him to the bone, a feeling not wholly caused by the temperature. Now, he stalked over a sea grey, the massive walls surrounding the port city of Cisroe an island upon which he walked. Encouraging the nervous soldiers along the battlements, he headed for the watchtower overlooking the gatehouse. There, he stood for some moments simply staring out over the fields, not even realizing until he heard a short cough that someone had joined him.

?Now, isn?t this an interesting turn.? As always, the almost-sibilant voice of Helmund Deggarant made Morgan?s skin crawl. He did not like the military liaison from The Empire of Terranth, but the troops he had brought from the Northern Empires had been a welcome boost to his own force. Wearing his customary close-knit scale mail, the Terranthi moved with an almost-unnatural grace that belied an aura of power and sent another shiver down Morgan?s spine.

?It will make for a tense morning, until it burns off.? Morgan returned his gaze to the fields and fog. ?Midmorning, perhaps.? A glance to the east confirmed his estimate of the time, as a warm glow was already breaking over the fog on the bay.

?Don?t be a fool, Captain.? The sneering tone brought Morgan around, bristling at the Terranthi. ?Do you really think this fog is anything more than a natural phenomenon?? Deggarant looked over to the Cisran captain, not bothering to hide his contempt. ?Please tell me you are not that stupid.?

?Then what in the hell do you think it is?? Morgan growled, as his hand crept toward the pommel of his sword. Another moment, he swore silently, and he would wipe that sneer from Deggarant?s face. Deggarant swept an arm out to indicate the fields before the wall, never breaking the locked gaze.

?You have an enemy army camped out before your gates all winter and most of the spring.? Lowering his arm the Terranthi officer looked back to Morgan. ?All spring the weather has been mild, with little mists in the morning and clear days to melt the snow. And now, we wake to a blinding fogbank?? With a snort, he looked over the fields again. ?No, not likely.? Morgan started to argue, but Deggarant ignored him and continued. ?No, there is a weather spell at work here.?

Morgan paused as he considered the words, and their meaning. His hands resting on the cool stone battlement, he finally shook his head slowly. ?Can you be certain of this??

?Will you risk your precious city that I am not?? Deggarant countered immediately. ?They?re coming, captain. Today, this siege ends.?
[color=blue:edda570bea][i:edda570bea]Fate whispered to the Warrior
"You cannot withstand the storm"

And the Warrior whispered back
"I am the storm"

-Anon[/i:edda570bea][/color:edda570bea]