220.127.116.11. Castoria Catastrophe
The Allied Forces’ total victory in Ludl puts the soldiers on the peak of their spirit. Yet, a day’s rest is what they need to recover from physical fatigue after the battle and long trek, and Cristophe knows that full well from his extensive experience in battles.
As the result, the troops look fresh, in tip-top shape and high spirited when they march along the plains in Merida to their next target, the city of Dalamar in Castoria, also a vassal kingdom of Regia Confederation.
Along the road, Chris sees countless marks of battle and the Dark Forces’ passing. Dead soldiers, really dead undead, carcasses of horses, beasts and monsters, and even civilians, inhabitants and refugees alike were not spared.
War is not the answer, but it’s the only way to deal with the Dark Forces. If only we can talk their hearts out and make them believe in love and coexistence, all this senseless bloodshed can be averted. Alas, we never had the chance. If only I can get to see the Heir of Vordac, I’ll offer a solution other than war that can benefit both the light and the dark. I know he, within his nature won’t possibly listen to me but as I said many times before, ‘at least I tried.’
Worrying that this sight might sink his army’s morale, Chris looks back and shouts, ‘Warriors of the Light! Multitudes of people have lost their lives in this war. The Dark drew first blood, and it’s now our duty to end this villainy and draw the last blood!
So, come with me! You will witness a new dawn of peace and tell your children and grandchildren tales of your heroism! Come! Together, we shall earn our freedom and fulfill our destiny!’
‘HHROOOAAH!!!’ Comes the thundering, deafening roar as response. The troops now forget about their fatigue after crossing the Grad, battling in Ludl and seeing such horrors here at the Merida-Castoria border. They keep their morale and spirits high. They are now heroes: Heroes who make the change and they’re going to fulfill that mission.
The Allied Forces march another day and reach Dalamar, City of a Thousand Gardens and a Million Trees. Literally, it is so; even the biggest trees also become houses, directly protecting its citizens from hot, wet and snowy weathers – except from fire, of course.
About five miles from the city, the Allied Forces stop. Looking ahead, Chris begins to worry.
Is this a joke? The city is empty! And no one comes to face us! Wait, this can be a trap. Maybe they have waited to ambush us inside. Better send scouts in there first.
‘Iris,’ he says to the elf Paladin, ‘Use your Farsight to see the insides of this city.’
‘Yes, Your Majesty,’ the elf answers. Without saying the incantation she looks ahead several miles away into the city. Two minutes later, she looks back at the Emperor and sighs.
‘I see no one in there. Indeed, there are signs of damage everywhere. The Dark Forces have occupied this city before, but no one is in there now.’
‘How about dead bodies?’
‘I know what you mean, Commander. Yes, there are many dead bodies, rotten or gorged to the skulls. The Dark never tidies its mess, and they might’ve turned most of them into zombies and the like, unless their souls have already passed over.’
Carolyn adds, ‘Maybe they have already abandoned this city to regroup in Turmane, so they’ll defend better against us.’
Chris responds, ‘You got a point, Carol. And yet, that is also a possibility. Like a game of chess *), this is a situation that we guess the enemy’s move, and the enemy is guessing ours by springing this trap.
Very well, we’ll play along, and whatever the trap is, we’ll be ready because we’ll cover all possibilities.
‘Iris, you and the Thyrinians will go to the city and scout around. Search for traps in all possible places and dispose of them. Signal us if it’s safe.
Ney, you stay with the main army. If Iris says the city is safe, you may all go in.
Carol, you go with the cavalry to the East, to make sure that the enemy is far enough. After twenty miles or so, return and regroup with the main army.
I shall go with the griffin riders to scout north and south of the city from the air. If we don’t return after thirty minutes, get into the city and make your stand.’
‘But, Commander,’ says Ney in protest, ‘There are so many trees in Dalamar as if a forest. If the enemy uses fire, we will be like – pardon my impudence – roast sitting ducks.’
Chris answers, ‘That’s why I need you and the water wizards in the main army so you can repel the fire.’
‘With all due respect, it’ll not be as easy as you think, Commander. We’ll be shorthanded in creating Walls of Water all around the city. There will be damages if the enemy attacks.’
‘That’s the risk we shall take. Tell all soldiers to go directly to the walls as soon as they’re all inside. Dalamar is our best bet, better than Ludl and Icothl for rendezvous point with the reinforcements and the Borgia division. Tell the soldiers about all of this, so they’ll be prepared.
Our mission is clear: Stand our ground in Dalamar until reinforcements arrive! Go now!’
Iris and Carolyn dart off to carry out their orders, and then Cristophe rides Acavela the red griffin off to the griffin riders’ squad patrolling the air, leaving Ney on standby, still with doubts in her face.
Thirty minutes later...
‘Your Majesty, we have scouted twenty miles to the north, and we found no sign of the enemy,’ a rider reports.
To this, the Emperor responds, ‘Have you searched the grounds? They maybe hide somewhere so a view from the air can’t detect them.’
‘We have done that too, my Liege. There are no signs of undead burrowing, cloaking or sorts.’
‘Very well, then. You keep patrolling this area and I’ll go back to the main army.’
‘Will do, Your Majesty.’
Chris turns Acavela around and flies back to Dalamar in high speed. Nearing the city, Chris sees the main army moving and a griffin rider coming with a report.
‘Captain de la Ponte reporting, Your Majesty. The south area is also secure, no enemy spotted.’
‘Good work, Captain. Now keep on patrolling the area in case something comes up.’
‘Aye, Your Majesty.’
Wasting no time, Chris dives down and sees Ney. Ney also sees him and delivers her report, ‘Your Majesty, Iris has sent us a signal. It’s safe in the city as well, so we are moving in.’
In response to that, Chris picks his Helmet of Truth from the saddle and puts it on so no one can guess his mood at the moment behind the visor.
He just says to Ney, ‘Carry on, then.’
Without further ado, Chris kicks off into the air again, surveying the army’s maneuvers. From the east he sees Carol returning with the cavalry, and he notices something odd: They’re galloping in haste! He instantly sweeps down.
‘MAIN ARMY! Cut quickly through the city; aid the cavalry on the East Gate! The enemy is coming from the east!’
Hearing that instruction, the main army quickly gets into the city from the west to pass straight to the other side to the east. leaving a quarter to guard the West Gate.
Chris soars up again, and he hears eerie shrieks coming from a distance, from all directions.
(* Chess = a game originated in Arcapada that becomes so popular in Aurelia Continent. The word ‘chess’ is actually a translation of the original ‘Knavl’. The identical property of this game proves that it’s a result of inter-dimensional communications with our world (India).
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