126.96.36.199. Break into the Dark
‘Unnh...,’ Cristophe, the Emperor of Arcadia opens his eyes.
The next thing he sees is Carolyn’s face so close to his. His sight is still blurry, and he becomes fully awake when his cousin suddenly breaks away from him, rushes out from the tent to inform the others and shouts, ‘The Emperor is awake! The Emperor is awake!’
Awake? That means I’ve been asleep for a while! Ah, my head is still aching, I can’t remember a thing. Oh, no! I remember now. I fell unconscious during battle and Robert brought me all the way to safety.
Suddenly, worry strikes him like a thunder bolt, and he tries to get up – with no avail.
Urrgg! Guess I’m still too weak to move.
Just then Carolyn rushes in and shouts, ‘Your Majesty! Please just stay in bed and don’t move a lot. Let us explain everything to you.’
At the same time Rael’charon, Robert, Hernan, Ivor, Kyflynn, Iris, Eidos and Dejan Pavlovic enter the tent, all seem relieved and calm. As Grand Marshal, of course Rael is the first to talk.
‘Your Majesty, thank Vadis you’re awake.’
‘How long have I been unconscious?’ Chris asks.
‘Three days. Our healers have been working intensively, and your wounds are all healed. However, you still need rest, and I’ll work amongst you from now on.’
‘What about Dalamar? Did we recapture it?’
‘Yes, Your Majesty. The tide of battle turns in our favor after the first division came, and when I arrived with the Valanian mages, the Succubus Queen sounded full retreat. The Dark Forces left quite a mess in the city, so we decided to set up tents and rest in open spaces.
Adler is reorganizing the troops and Ney and her team are extinguishing fire in the city to prevent our camp from being burned. Our losses are heavy, yet we still have enough men to go on with the Crusade. Dejan has brought help from Halethia and Edel, and we’ll be ready to march again in one day or so.’
Chris stares straight into Rael’charon’s eyes and says, ‘Anyway, there must be a good reason of the Valanians’ delay.’
‘Yes, Your Majesty,’ says Rael calmly without a thing to hide. ‘Not all things went as planned. The Terranovan dark elves attacked us, although we took the path through Lorna Sea as I’ve suggested.
We battled in the harbor, and when we were cornered, the pirates led by Sheena Mekh’ta came to the rescue. We finally escaped by the ships, and the pirates escorted us to the coast of Castoria. I thanked Sheena earnestly. The Pirate Queen didn’t want any reward and went off to assist the Allied Fleets instead.’
Hearing that, Chris doesn’t press this matter further. He nods and says, ‘Though we are clear of Sheena’s intentions, I must admit she has helped us so many times during this war. Just let her be with the fourth division fleets.
Speaking of the first and third division, how did they fare?’
‘The first division has recaptured Freidle, and then charged through Ballax and Handelburg without much trouble. The Borgian troops chose to stay in their homeland, getting their well-earned rest after all the battles they’ve been through. One thing that delayed them was that the Heir of Vordac showed up and fought in Freidle.’
‘WHAT?’ Cristophe is shocked to hear that. ‘Wait, if the Heir was there, then Robert...’
‘Robert also fought the Heir along with Kyflynn, Desmond, Tina and Hernan. So, I believe he is not the Heir.’
‘I see. That means all Robert said was true. Forgive me if I ever doubted you, my friend,’ says Chris to his ex-mentor, Robert.
‘That’s all right, Your Majesty,’ says Robert, reassuring him.
‘... Vordac’s Heir in Freidle, and I, Vadis’ Heir in Merida and Castoria. Hmm. He must’ve had a good reason to show up there and not here to face me.’
‘Precisely, Your Majesty. He just came to help Nöac and test his strength. Apparently, his power was not stable, so he fled, and all Dark Forces fled with him.’
‘Hmm. Some might say that was a glorious victory, but I say that’s a warning. The Dark Forces are regrouping in Sylvania, where they are the strongest and the dark mana is the densest,’ says Chris with resentment. ‘The fight ahead is got to be much, much harder for us.’
‘You’re right, Your Majesty. That’s why we need all the rest, strength, help and blessing we can get. We’re going to break into the dark and there’s no turning back.’
‘So, how about Sir Vincent and the third division?’
This time Dejan speaks up, ‘Here’s my report. I have guided Sir Vincent and we have found Genilda Yemima. Commander Rael was right. The orcs went to defend Freidle, only one third of their forces is in Bresconnor. Genilda was in a great despair because the orcs kidnapped her daughter Marjan, and Sir Vincent kept her from acting rashly.
So, I left the third division in their care and went to Edel and Halethia to get help.’
‘Hmm. It seems Genilda and Sir Vincent will make a great pair together. Very well, then. I now hereby re-transfer the authority as Grand Marshal to Commander Rael’charon. The fights ahead will be much harder, yet we still believe Vadis shall guide us to the path of victory and deliverance. With this faith, we go forth!’
Go forth, Paladins! Fulfill Your Destiny!
The Allied Forces then march on to Turmane, and as they’ve expected, the city is really left vacant. Wasting no time, they only stop for a few hours to rest and resume their march.
Chris rides his griffin in front of the army along with Robert and Adler, forming the vanguard. He is thinking hard. Robert comes near him and pats his shoulder, saying, ‘Don’t worry, Chris. I’m sure Rael’charon knows what he’s planning.’
The red-haired Emperor turns and smiles at his former mentor, saying, ‘It’s not Rael’charon’s plan I’m worrying about. It’s just... His plan is, you know, dangerous. So, I must think of how I’m going to pull it off and make sure that I’m not screwing up.’
To this, Robert only reacts with his words, ‘You are not alone in this. We, the three strongest Paladins will work like hands and feet, looking out for each other. Together, we shall minimize the chance to lose any life within our banners, including the Paladins and especially you, the true Antithesis of Evil.
Bear this in mind: The Crusade will go on even though you’re gone. However, our strength is doubled because you are here. You are here as Vadis’ Heir to serve as a reminder to Vadis, and a motivator to keep us believe that hope is still alive, and Vadis is among us to guide and strengthen us. You are the key, our guiding light ot break into the darkness. So, be confident and be strong, because we, the troops, Generals and Paladins alike will keep the light of hope alive, no matter what, even if we must sacrifice our lives by so doing. Just let courage flow within you and before you know it, you do more than any legendary hero ever did. Is that right, Lord Adler?’
Adler just stares at a distance and pretends not to hear a thing, just the reaction anyone expects from a pompous noble like him. Robert just shrugs, while Cristophe tries to break the ice, saying,
‘Lord Adler, just listen to me. I need to reveal a secret to you. Back in Myrcalia, I and Commander Rael’charon did a research, and we found out that Alexis’ body in the mausoleum was a fake: it was Sir Eldric’s. Talbot du Bois destroyed the evidence, so we believe that my brother might still be alive and is held hostage in Kraal’Thragon along with my wife.
So, our REAL mission is not only eliminating the Heir of Vordac, but also rescuing Alexis and Eloise, the hostages.
Now, with Vadis and Robert here as witnesses, I promise you that if we rescue Alexis in one piece and sane, I shall abdicate my throne to him and live a quiet life with my wife and family.’
Adler’s face changes a bit on hearing this, ‘Do you really mean what you’ve said, Your Majesty?’
‘I shall never take back my words. That’s what a real man is all about.’
‘In that case, I shall help you with all my heart. Now let’s stay sharp and focus, because the blighted land is just ahead.’ Adler points forward and there it is, the blighted wasteland of Sylvania in sight. It’s so desolate and barren, only dark creatures and scavengers can survive this deathly environment.
‘The Necropolis of Crypton is near the border, and here comes the welcoming committee,’ says Robert, pointing at hordes of undead looming closer and closer. ‘Ready or not, let’s do this!’
Chris turns around to check. The troops’ face are tense, because death is nearly a certainty for vanguards like them. So, to ease their worries and raise their morale, again Chris pulls Acavela into a ‘prancing griffin’ position and shouts as loud as he can,
‘Comrades in Light! This is it, our finest hour! We have come this far, and now we arrive in the last stage of our Crusade! The Dark Forces are just beasts hiding under their hideous forms. Now we will teach them what fear is!’
‘HHRRROOAAA!!’ The troops are shouting at the top of their voices with renewed spirit. This time, nothing, even a multitude of Archdevils, can stop them now. All Chris needs to do now is to ‘set them loose’.
The dark creatures are looming closer. Chris puts his helmet on, points his sword forward, pats Acavela and shouts, ‘FOR ETERNIA!’
The man and griffin soar up in the air. Robert charges on with his faithful steed Paeldagrin and Adler with the horse that once belonged to his best friend Alexis, Darkwind. The troops charge forward so quickly, the ground rumbles and all of them are like lighting and thunder storm.
The ghouls and skeletons in the front row are falling into pieces before they realize what hits them. With this surprise as their advantage, the soldiers press on. However, as more and more monsters come, the troops begin to get overwhelmed and talk among themselves.
‘There are too many of them! We can’t break through!’
‘The Generals are right! The undead is far stronger in this cursed lan than... other places! We better... GYAAAH!!’ A ghoul sinks its sharp teeth into the poor soldier’s neck.
The three Vanguard Paladins see this situation clearly and exchange meaningful glances. Chris then shouts, ‘ALL TROOPS, RETREAT!’
Robert and Adler relay the instruction to the others and all troops begin to withdraw orderly, starting from the back row. The Paladins stay on the front, fighting until the way back is clear and all the troops withdraw.
And they all run away. The undead pursue them wildly, knowing that Chris, their main target is within sight. Chris and Acavela keep doing dive-and-hits, shooting bolts of light with the Excalibur and soar up again, avoiding enemy arrows, recharging for another round shot.
Rob, Adler, the troops also do hit-and-runs to cover Chris, and their overall synergy successfully divides the undead’s concentration between hitting the primary target and avoiding the skirmishes.
Without they knowing it, the undead has crossed the border. The Crusaders know full well what it means, but they keep on retreating. The mountainous terrain on the Castoria-Sylvania border serves as a natural barrier so the lands of Castoria are not blighted, so does the Angel Falls Cliff to the lands of Ashtri and Val’shka.
And so, the undead keeps on chasing into a path that crosses between the mountain, almost like a ravine. Soon, the path is filled with monstrous creatures, all jumbling together, pushing, even fighting their way through their own kind just to hit the grand prize.
A rather intelligent demonic general suddenly shouts, ‘STOP! STOP, YOU MAGGOTS! THIS IS AN AMBUSH! TURN BACK! TURN BACK!’
A warning that’s too late.
A group of elven and human archers and dwarven snipers suddenly comes up and shoots! Arrows and bullets pour down like rain, giving no room for escape. Even the winged demons who fly away to report this matter are not spared.
‘Infantry, rock ‘n roll!’
This is a special code, and the troops understand it perfectly. And literally, it is. BROOOMLLL! Big boulders roll downhills from the two sides.
A skeleton warrior just escaped the arrows by using his shield and hiding behind a fallen abomy. It gets up and about to make a run for its safety, but a boulder already rolling towards it! The skeleton jumps over the dead abomy with great reflexes. When it lands on the other side, another boulder rolls it over, crushing the living bones into pieces. Well, look at the bright side. At least it’s not alone, because many more share its fate.
The enemy troops on the back usually have a greater chance to escape from the ambush path, but an Allied Forces squad under Hernan and Desmond block their way out. As soon as the boulders stop rolling, Desmond shouts, ‘CHAAARGEE!!’ and the whole ambush squad floods the river of panicked undead.
Chris, Rob and Adler also stop their retreat and counterattack! ‘NOW, FINISH THEM OFF!’ shouts Chris, followed by a thundering roar from his troops.
Robert attacks first with his two swords and Black Dragon Soulstealer, slicing through dark creatures to let them taste their own medicine.
Adler follows with the long range attack, Fingers of the Blade, sending five razor waves that sever the enemies that are in line.
Cristophe, last but not least, selects the densest group of enemies and attacks them with the Speedy Strikes of Diligence, utilizing the combined supernatural powers of his sword and Greaves of Diligence. His attack is similar to Rob’s in some aspects, puts more in accuracy than power while Rob’s is vice versa.
‘GHAAA...!!!’ Eerie shouts like that, along with sounds of broken bones and limbs are like a sweet music for the Allied Forces. They’ve been trapped and ambushed before, and now it’s their turn to return the favor.
Iris’ Hurricane spell finishes many monsters that manage to flee from the chaos, but not all of them. The Grand Marshal comes to her side, sees the enemies fleeing and yet he does nothing.
Iris turns to Rael, saying, ‘Let me pursue them, Commander. We can’t let them tell the others about this.’
To this, the stunningly handsome elf smiles at her, touches her shoulder and says, ‘Just let them go, Iris. Whatever you do, the result will be the same. A trap won’t work twice in a short time. I reckon they won’t dare to step beyond their borders again.’
Rael’s smile and touch makes Iris’ face blush, so she only talks sweetly, ‘So, this ambush is... useless?’
‘Not really,’ says Rael coolly. ‘The ambush was a huge success. I thing we’ve eliminated about five thousand already, judging form the length of the path. The most important thing is, we’ve managed to lower their morale, showing them that mind can conquer might.
So, now’s the time to face them frontally. We’ll occupy Crypton and then launch our attack directly towards Kraal’thragon, the Dark Citadel. No more tactics, no more complications, just penetration.’
Iris doesn’t respond to that. She only stares at Rael’charon with her eyes sparkling with admiration.
Image tentative source:
Night Land: Building of a Lesser Doubt by taisteng.deviantart.com