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Amensol's Shadow: The Fox And The Wolf, Part Four

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    December 10, 2019 8:02 PM PST

    Amensol’s Shadow: The Fox And The Wolf, Part 4

    The 5th Tale of the Unseen Pillar of the House of Amensol, by Benonai

     

    Next came a vicious hissing snake;

    A boa on the hunt;

    The fox looked mighty tasty, yes;

    A mighty tasty lunch;

     

    He swooped down low to grab the fox,

    But wolf was too alert;

    He charged the snake with his long nose,

    And now it, too, was hurt.

     

    With aching face and throbbing tail

    The wolf adventured more;

    The little fox was thankful so,

    For all he’d done before;

     

    Eleven days.  Twenty-two thousand men.  Thirty-five thousand elves.  A handful of immigrants, Ginto Remnants, and a slew of wounded warriors.  One-third of the rations destroyed in an accidental fire in the storehouse.  22 Councilmen of Men and Elves bickering. One foolish young king. And no great heroes of men left after the Battle of Havensong, not even my beloved Carinna. Think, Allistan. Just think…

     

                The stale air felt heavy and hard to breathe as Allistan vigorously worked in the depths of the Silent Sanctum, the fortress of refuge for the elves and men of Terminus.  Fleeing their homelands in the siege underway by the Ravaging Lord and his army called the Revenant, they had sought shelter here as a last defense against the insurmountable odds of overcoming these demi-gods.  His co-conspirator, Ossari, once the immortal ruler of Men left his bastion among the pantheon to conquer and rule as a mortal and carry out his will as he saw fit, crossing the celestial boundary that separated gods and their creations.  Now, Elves were far from the tranquil lives among the trees of Faerthale and Men were trapped in their own makeshift prison, forced to watch their city, Havensong, as it was torn stone from stone, carried away, and tossed into the sea.  There was nothing left for men outside this glorified cave at the base of the Roan Mountains.  And Allistan was doing all he could to hold the broken pieces of their civilization together.

                “Kole, could you come help me inventory these crates over here?” Allistan motioned to the boy.

                “Yessir,” Kole replied, jumping from a box in the corner and bounding to action.  It was Allistan’s plan to keep him busy and distracted from his unfortunate situation.

                Kole was the orphaned son of two of the greatest warriors of Men, Honnai and Carinna.  Honnai was favored by the king from a very young age, having found him orphaned by his grandfather who had died just as their rescue had come.  Honnai had died as a young man while saving the life of the king’s son, Avendyr.  His wife of less than a year, Carinna, was pregnant with their first child, Kole.  Carinna had been raised by master equestrian husbandmen and quickly picked up the skills of warfare and strategy.  She was a tenacious leader who had the hearts of practically all the army.  She had orchestrated the retreat and survival of Men and Elves at the Battle of Havensong and single-handedly fought against Ossari himself.  She was the first to draw blood from the High Mortal and gave hope to Men that he could be defeated.  She was killed during her duel by a stray arrow, cut down by mere chance before she could vanquish him. The delay of Ossari had allowed the escape of the rest of the army. Now, in the aftermath of the battle, along with other children, Kole found himself with no family.  War and loss were all he had ever known in his 10 years and Allistan tried to give him respite at every opportunity.  This manual labor and tedious work would do the trick for a little while, he thought.

     

                “This very month marks the four hundred seventy fifth year since our ancestors were brought to Terminus from S’iolaen,” a tall Elvish council member addressed the meeting of elven and human leaders. “We have weathered many storms in our time before and after our arrival.  The Tohr’mentirii laid waste to our homelands siding with those they protected us against. Again, the Tohr’mentirii found our homeland, blessed by Aellos, and burned the sacred tree Lumos to ash.  In our moment of grief, covered with the ash of Lumos and dust, we again were spared by our god as the Heartseed of the sacred tree was bestowed to us for safe keeping to be planted in another land.  Now, the sacred tree Lucent, four hundred seventy five years old, has been burned with the fires of malice and greed, just as they were on S’iolaen.  If we have learned nothing, it is that sorrow and salvation are connected as day and night.  As this storm is weathered, the sun will shine through again.  But, we must have the fortitude to outlast the storm.  I am sorry, Avendyr.  We cannot risk all out war with Ossari and the Revenant. Our path will be evident in time. Let them crash and recede upon the mighty walls of our sanctuary.”

                Avendyr tried to keep his calm.  He knew his youth and inexperience was being closely monitored by the nine Ashen Elf council.  They had a mutual understanding with his father, Amensol, but they were reluctant to make new friends, to say the least.  Trust was not easily won or lost with the elves.

                “I appreciate your position, Eludyr.  I wish our history was as clear as the elves to glean from our victories and failures,” Avendyr said as he stood from his seat and began pacing the hall. “On Terminus, we have had a different experience.  Everything we have has been won by grasping and clawing our way through survival.  We have staved off eradication by our grit and determination.  While you still pray to your gods for protection, we pray against ours for our own god now fights against us.”  The leaders all mumbled to themselves at the clear distinictions.  Avendyr tried to maintain composure.  He was a charismatic man as his father was, and playing the stoic was against his very nature.

                “I implore you to look only at the facts.  We have lost a great deal of our supplies.  We have lost many more than we had hoped.  But, we have seen Ossari bleed.  We have seen him tire.  We have seen him frustrated.  We have only to cut the head from the snake and the body will die.”

    Another elven councilmember spoke up, “In his favor, the Lucent tree may still be alive if dormant just as Lumos was before.  The sooner we can get to her, the greater chance of saving her.”

                At this, the nine elves began bickering, some out loud.  There was much pessimism at the thought of the Lucent tree still living, as there was with most thing with the elves, Avendyr thought to himself.  The oldest elf on the council slammed his hand on the table at which they set and cried, “Silence!”

                Aelleos now how the attention of the room.  He continued, “There has been much debate here today. There are merits to your words, Avendyr, as there are many to the words of my brothers.  But these words stand in disagreement, and disagreement is just another way of being in agreement to consider more and act less until the way presents itself clearly.” Avendyr’s countenance fell when he realized where Aelleos was leading the council. Aelleos spoke up, “My brothers, men, and the others represented here today.  These times are mired in uncertainty and danger.  The single flap of an eagle’s wing could push the scales against us and decide extinction over victory.  We have no reason to disbelieve the prophecy.  The suns of Terminus have not been revealed in any manner or form they may come. As of now, we are safe within these walls.  Fate will speak when she is ready. I vote against offensive measures at this time.”

                Avendyr could barely contain himself.  The elves were so fixated on their past they failed to see the state they presently were in.  There was no time left.  He had to speak up.

                “Counsellor Aelleos, if I may.  So there is no confusion this day or to our posterity, if the suns of Terminus are called of those who step out and fight back against this darkness upon us, are you willing to bear the burden of the lives lost in our inaction this day?  For if we are the suns of Terminus, then fate has already granted us the tools, the spirit, and the motive at the passing of my father, the king of men, to meet the enemies of our sacred six races and defeat them.  And every day we deny that, we sacrifice our own brothers and sisters. Do you accepts that burden?”

                Aellos studied Avendyr, judging between courageous leadership and boyish arrogance  and inexperience.  The others elves and men at the table looked around, none ready to make a judgment one way or the other.  Aellos finally flashed a light smile at Avendyr and answered him.  “King Avendyr, I accept this responsibility so long as you accept all the responsibility for the destruction of your brothers and mine if you are wrong. History has a way of writing great failures along with great accomplishments.”

    “I don’t plan for great failures,” Avendyr replied. “I only plan for success.”

                “Very well,” Aellos said.  He turned back to his councilmembers who were already rising from the table and whispered among them for a brief moment.  Then he rose and adorned another polite smile and said, “The Ashen Order votes no on offense measures… for now.”

                Avendyr flashed a less believable polite smile back at Aelleos, bowed and turned toward the table.  He wanted to throw a boulder through the door the elves were exiting, but he settled for throwing a grape from a tray on the table lightly against a wall in a very muted protest.  How could they be so ignorant, he thought.  Life was what you made it, not what you take from it.  His father had lost against Ossari, but he and Carinna had shown that he could be defeated.  He needed to wake the council up, to drive them from their slumber to the ferocity of this present war.  As much as he hated the abrupt loss of so many rations, it almost relieved him to push others for standing up for their homeland.

                Avendyr dismissed his advisors and military leaders and noticed there was a face missing among those at the table.  He would probably side with the elves, but he was at the least a familiar face that shared his love of his people and his father.  And he needed to know how much longer the rations would last to plan out his offensive strategy. Avendyr picked up his parchments and books from the table, stored them away for later, and bounded from the room in search of Allistan, the enemy of his enemy.

     

                Kole unstacked and restacked boxes for hours in the depths of Silent Sanctum, down in the storehouse which was little more than a dark cave at the back of the fortress.  While lighting the cave, a torch had slipped from its sconce and fallen on a crate of liquor as the workers were leaving for the day.  They had managed to stop the fire’s spread before it consumed all the supplies, but a substantial portion of them had been ruined.  Allistan, as the king’s chief advisor and Head Cleric, had been in charge of organizing the construction, supplying, and operation of the refuge.  This had not been part of the plan, and the loss had to be factored into when the supplies would run out.  Ossari and his army had once again turned their sights toward the Sanctum and marched toward them even now.  He was confident that the layout of the entrance was sufficient to hold off a siege, but for how long was up to the rations that were left.

                Evening finally came and Kole became too tired to work any longer.  Allistan had noticed and suggested they turn in for the night. The boy slowly plodded over to him and walked off in Allistan’s embrace.  Heading out of the storehouse, Allistan and Kole passed by women and children in the great halls bedded down on the floors, each with precious few possessions they were allowed to bring into the Sanctum for lack of space.  Most of the Men and Elves, being ones to keep to themselves, were settled in their own communities, although you would see plenty of interspersing during the day as the children played and the mothers grieved together the losses from this terrible war.  Tragedy, Allistan had learned, brought many losses, and a chief one was division.  One figured out quickly what separated real concerns from perceived ones in times of hardship, and this was the hardest of times. The boy slowed more and more as they wound their way through the vast structure and up the stairs toward Allistan’s quarters.  Kole had been staying in his room since the battle and losing his mother.  Allistan had a great love for Carinna he had hoped would blossom at the end of the war, but it was not meant to be.  All his extensive training in magic was not enough to save his love from her fate, and he wore that heavy burden on his shoulders each day.  The only thing that brought him comfort was seeing her in her son, safe from the fighting and protected. Allistan turned down the last hallway to his quarters and noticed someone standing at his doorway.

    “King Avendyr!,” Kole burst back to life and ran into the arms of the newly crowned king of Men.  “We have enough supplies to last two whole months!” Kole exclaimed, proud of himself for a hard day’s work.  Avendyr flashed him an excited and almost believable smile at the news.  His eyes lifted quickly and met Allistan’s, and Allistan’s stare told him the bad news was true. In a war that had lasted 10 years, two months of siege was more than possible; it was a certainty.  His eyes returned to the boy.

    “That’s amazing!  Now that Allistan has you working like a man, you need to sleep like one.  Why don’t you go in and get prepared for bed.  Maybe tomorrow you can come and sleep in the King’s chambers with me and I can teach you how to gamble like a man, haha,” Avendyr wrestled with the boy for a moment before pushing him off toward Allistan’s room.  Allistan just stood and stared.  Allistan and Avendyr had never been close, and the tension between them was heightened as both of them were vying for Carinna’s affection.  But, as the war tore more and more of their mutual friends away from them, the chasm between them continued to widen.  Allistan hated Avendyr’s nonchalance and egotistical recklessness, and Avendyr hated Allistan’s piety and his paralyzing fear of action and short-sidedness.  And they were both convinced of it.

    “Evening… O King,” Allistan said with as much grace as he could muster. “What the boy said is true.  We lost a tragic amount of supplies in the fire.  Those calculations are reflective of reduced rations, bare minimums to keep fighters fighting and all others alive.  I’d wager they won’t last even that long.”

    Avendyr looked over his shoulder to make sure no other people around could hear their conversation. “I was thinking as much.  All my life, this world has done nothing but try to kill us. I’m sick of it, Allistan.”

    “Look,”Allistan said, trying to breathe some sensibility into the conversation, “we have made it this far against insurmountable odds.  We have proved that the longer we can just hold on, the greater chance we will overcome the obstacles Terminus throws at us.  Lady Ginavi’s prophecy is true.  We must hold on long enough to see it.”

    Avendy shifted on his feet, irritated by Allistan’s constant insistence to be stagnant. “You know, Allistan, what if my father was right? Eh?” Avendyr moved close to him to quieten his rebuke. “What if we are the prophecy?  What if we are the suns of Terminus who are to save this world.  What if all this bloodshed and years of war and famine and destitution are of our own making, simply because we chose the cowardice of this elaborate tomb above courage and victory?  You saw what can be done to Ossari?  You know he can be killed. My father proved that.”

    “Carinna…,” Allistan interrupted hotly, ”Carinna… proved that. She was the best of us, the greatest chance of success against him, and you saw how fate intervened.” Allistan paused for a second, trying not to go too far in his candid conversation with the king. “Your father acted out of impulse when he should have been getting to safety to lead us another day.  The king I loved, and gave my entire life to, acted against the will of fate and paid a terrible price for it, one that we all now pay in his loss. Don’t… make… the same… mistake.”  Allistan’s eyes softened as he pleaded with his king.

    Avendyr looked away, across the bedroom at the young boy with nothing, still carrying on with his daily chores in spite of his condition.  “No.  I… I don’t see mistakes. Allistan, I don’t seem them as mistakes.  I see them as opportunities.” Avendyr’s countenance changed to bravado as he raised himself up to as regal a stature as he could.  “That boy in there has lost almost everything he has and look at him.  Still moving forward. In the face of adversity, he stands.  And just a word from you or me springs him into action.  My father’s death was not a mistake.  It was a call to action. It is calling us to rise up and stand against the fallible Ossari. He may be the spark needed to set the suns ablaze.  Allistan, I need to speak with the people.  Tomorrow.”

    “Wait,” Allistan stuttered.  “He’s not springing to action.  He’s doing whatever he can to survive.  He’s burying his remorse in work just to make it through the next day…”

    Avendyr jumped back in without missing a beat, “That’s even better.  They need something to alleviate the pain.  They’ll respond for an end to their suffering, especially in the face of this crisis with the rations. Yes, Allistan, don’t you see?  It’s all making sense now!”  Avendyr was getting more excited as Allistan became more frustrated.  “Sundown tomorrow, Allistan!  Your king commands it, haha.”

    “Avendyr, stop!”  Allistan quietened back down and looked around to make sure nobody saw how he was addressing the king.  He may not like Avendyr, but he respected his king.  Avendyr was already bounding down the hallway.  His youthfulness at times brought out a sympathetic eye from Allistan, wanting to guide him into being the great king he wished him to be, but other times he wanted nothing more than to grab him by his collar and beat sense into him.  Allistan looked through his doorway to the boy sitting on his bed.  Kole was holding a locket that belonged to his mother.  He was clutching it, looking through the window at the crescent moon and trying to fall asleep.  This boy didn’t want victory.  He wanted his mother.  And she not the prize of any battle.

     

     

    “Father, I cannot see,” a young elven boy said to his father, one hand holding his son’s and the other on his crutch.  His left leg was missing from the knee down.

    “Patience.  We will find a favorable location from which to watch,” the elf said as he led his son deeper into the crowded hall.  News had gone around that the king had an important address at the end of a brutal day of fighting at the outskirts of the Sanctum.  A heavy wave of Revenant soldiers had very nearly broken through two levels of ramparts leading to the main gates of the Sanctum.  It took a great deal of supplies and mana to fend them off.  There were many magic casters that would be unable to return to combat tomorrow due to their exhaustion holding the lines.  Archers had burned through three days worth of arrows.  Most arrows were broken on impact or not salvageable due to location, and there were no supplies for making more.  Although the stockpile was impressive, there would eventually be an end.  There was a sense of inevitability in the air this night, more so than there had been since they retreated into the Silent Sanctum, and all were hoping that this address by the king would bring about some good news for a change. The father brushed by the densely packed crowd to find a suitable location from which to listen.

                People were still streaming in from alcoves and hallways into the massive hall tucked safely away from the entrance to the Silent Sanctum. Several men had started spreading word of the King’s address and rumor caught like wildfire and was spread by neighbors and soldiers and children throughout the refuge.  Through the middle of the crowd came a mass of bodies whose way was parted without pushing or yelling.  The Council of the Nine of the Ashen Order made its way to the front of this crowd, apparently disturbed by this breach in protocol. They had not bee told of any addresses nor had they agreed to anything that merited an announcement to the general population.  Aelleos emerged from the crowd near to where one of the king’s men was stationed, supposing this was where this announcement would be given.

                The low volume roar of the crowd began to fade from the back off the great hall as a wave of eyes spun around to see what was going on.  King Avendyr, the handsome young warrior stepped up onto a box resting on the floor by a large pillar.  As he stood there staring across the mass of people, the crowd turned silent.  The Council of the Nine were noticeably upset at their location far from the king and began their much harder trudge in his direction.  With all eyes on the king, the elven council had to push their way through the thick crowd.

                “My brothers and sisters,” began Avendyr, “so much has happened in the last months.  The glory of the elves, the Lucent tree, has been burned down, along with your homes and possessions. The only home men have ever known, Havensong, has been desecrated and ripped stone from stone and thrown into the sea.  Our lands are destroyed.  Women and children have perished  in their own houses.  And now, the refuge we worked so hard to establish for our safety, has been assaulted; not by foe but by fate.  The fires that ravaged our storehouse has ripped time from our hands.”

                “It seems Terminus  has continually brought us to the breaking point.  It has forced us along this path,” Amensol hopped from the crate down to the floor and began walking among the crowd. “And for our part, we have cut against the grains of fate  to pursue our own will to survive.”

                The council members were still pushing through the ever growing crowd to get in the face of the audacious young king.  Avendyr saw them and did his best to keep them from getting to him.  He kept moving through the crowd and bellowing his speech.

                “I want to tell you I am done with just surviving!  How does one measure his life? In hours? In days and weeks and years? Does the life of a man reduce down to decades?  Is the telling of your story just a number?  Let me tell you, brothers, there is no prize at the end for duration,” Avendyr continued.  Around him, some began nodding in approval.  A few began raising their voices in agreement.

    “There is no award for longevity!  No… it is the same end.  Your value, your sum is measured in deeds; in your own actions.  How you lived your life, regardless of number…” Avendyr kept the council in the corner of his eye as he continued to circle through the crowd.  “… is what defines you.  You are bridled by those in charge, afraid to remove the harness that controls you and step into the future that belongs to you.  Is it mere coincidence that Lady Ginavi, when speaking her prophecy over our six races, invoked the sun as her depiction of the saviors of our lands.  And here we stand, Faerthale set ablaze, Havensong set ablaze, and at the passing or our great king, Amensol, there has arisen a fire and a fury sparked by his boldness and leadership that no Revenant scum can extinguish!” Avendyr spit on the ground at the mention of the Revenant, drawing war cries and cheers from the crowd being moved by his words.  He had made his way all the way back to the platform the Council had been at the beginning.  He hoisted himself up onto the makeshift stage.

                Through a corridor, Allistan ran toward the great hall as fast as he could. 

     

    Earlier, against his better judgment, Allistan had sent out messengers to announce the king’s speech.  He was attending to the lines outside where the fighting was picking up.  His group of clerics were mending the wounded just behind the skirmishes in an entryway to the second row of defenses.  The initial outer wall and the second wall were both  built to 20 cubits, high enough to avoid easy scaling or throwing, and provide a fair amount of room at its base for cover from incoming missiles.  The arrows and darts of the Revenant flew far and landing them just behind the wall was difficult to say the least.  Allistan an up the wall to meet with Lorn, the commander of the army now that Hugreth was dead.  The fighting had seemed to intensify and Allistan calculated he needed to call to arms additional fighters.  Upon reaching the top of the wall, he noticed Lorn laying behind the top wall tending to an arrow that was lodged in his shoulder.  Allistan ran to him and quickly dug his knife into the slit carved by the incoming arrow.  He widened it just enough to pull the arrow free without the head doing any more internal damage.  His incantations manifested an iridescent blue light that warmed the area of the injury.  Allistan knew that the Revenant poison worked quickly and, if not caught soon enough, it could prove fatal.  For 10 minutes Allistan sat and called for healing for Lorn.  At then end, the cut had almost closed up and was bleeding just enough to require a bandage around his arm.

                “Thanks, Allistan.  You have impeccable timing,” said Lorn with a smirk.

                “Well, I just figure you to always be in trouble, and you rarely prove me a liar,” Allistan joked back as he helped Lorn to his feet atop the wall.  Looking out, the sea of Revenant soldiers was attempting to break through the 4 entry points along the second wall.  The lines had been holding, thanks to ingenious design by the master crafters of both Elves and Men.  Allistan noticed a firebolt had struck a few Revenant just outside the entry below them.  He pointed it out to Lorn, and Lorn immediately shouted down to one of the captains and waved a flurry of gestures.  The captain nodded his head and shouted back to his men.  All of a sudden, a group of warrior cut their way outside the opening and began filling in the space where the burnt Revenant soldiers once stood.  A mass of soldiers began forming a line up through the entryway, effectively cutting off the lightly populated western side from the larger mass of enemy soldiers to their east.  Some fighters were called to clear the west side while the line continued to push toward the outer walls of the citadel.  If the army could pull itself into that area between the walls, they could pin the large group of Revenant between the two walls and fight them from three sides while using the walls as a wedge to trap them.  Allistan and Lorn continued to communicate with the army below as they made their way into the large battlefield.  From the south, a wind picked up, blowing sand and grass into the eyes of the skirmishers.  The storm seemed to come from nowhere when Allistan heard a peculiar whistle in the air and looked up to see a faint glimmer through the dust.

                Down on the battlefield, a soldier cleared the backside of the main fighting and was on his way back to his group when he was struck from above with the force of lightning.  The infantrymen around him were knocked from their feet and a pulse ran out from the spot.  Allistan and Lorn were moved by the shockwave but watched as the body of the soldier was driven to the ground with such speed and intensity, his arms were torn from his body as he instantly was crushed into the dirt.  Standing with his foot planted inside the ribcage of the fallen soldier was Ossari.

     

    Allistan shouted at those blocking his way as he ran hard and fast toward the King and the assembly.  He broke through the final archway to see the great multitude cheering with fists held high as Avendyr stood on a platform on the other side of the hall.  He began shouting and pushing his way through.  He heard Avendyr speaking.

                “We are the fire that burns like the sun!,” Avendyr exclaimed from his platform. “Our time is now! We must fulfill our destinies, no longer living for survival, but for purpose and pride!  Elves, Men, let us say our lives meant something, let our children hail us as saviors and heroes, and our enemies tremble to speak our names!”  The crowd erupted in cheers as the Council of the Nine mumbled to each other and eyed the crowd, judging the sentiments of their people.  Allistan hurried through the crowd pushing as hard as he could to get to the king.

                “Follow me to war against our oppressors, not for the sake of our lives, but for the sake of our souls, and the souls of our children!” Avendyr followed the chants of the people in the crowd. ‘FOR KING! FOR COUNTRY! FOR OUR SOULS!’ He looked around through the crowd and saw, in front of the platform just under him, was a chanting ten year old boy name Kole.

                Allistan pressed to the stage and yelled up to Avendyr among the thunderous chants in the chamber.  Finally, Avendyr saw Allistan and at Allistan’s insistence, he jumped down to news from the battlefront. Masked by the roar of the crowd, Allistan explained the situation outside and that Ossari had called for the leaders of the people to come out and face him.  At the end of Allistan’s news, Avendyr jumped back onto the stage and quieted the crowd.

                “Fate… has answered… our cries!  Your voices, your battle cries have summoned the pathetic, cowardly, disgraced Ossari to us!  Brothers, I have just been informed that Ossari has come to meet his fate.  Now is our time. TO WAR AND TO VICTORY!”

                The mass of worked up people roared as they dispersed to their weapons, the women to their duty stations.  Avendyr looked to his side and picked up Kole who was cheering beside him.

                Allistan leaned in to him.  “We need to keep these people away from the battlefield.  It’s not safe out there!  This is exactly what Carinna risked her life to avoid!”

                “Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of doing things cautiously.  I have to lead, to make the tough decisions, and inspire our people to greatness.  You can either help or you can stay out of the way!” snapped Avendyr.

                “Kole, come with me.  We need to get you with the rest of the children,” Allistan reached for Kole but Kole ducked back from his hand.

                “I thought I was a man now.  King Avendyr, can I come and watch you slay Ossari?”

                Avendyr stared at Allistan. “I guess everyone has drawn their lines, Allistan.  In another 500 years, will anyone remember your name?”  Avendyr put Kole down and grabbed him by the hand and walked off toward the battle.

     

                The mass of people had migrated out to the entrance to the Sanctum.  Most of the women had stayed back to take care of the children, but those who were able to fight, all grabbed their gear and headed out to stand against the enemy.  King Avendyr strode out from among them with Kole in hand.  He stopped for a brief moment in front of the newly invigored army and turned to face them.

                “The spirit of Amensol, great King of Men, is with us,” he shouted as he held up his hand.  He grabbed Kole and raised him up on his shoulder. “And the spirit of General Carinna is with us!” The crowd let out a deafening cheer as he led them beyond the third wall and to where the army had been holding off the horde on the other side of the second wall.

                Lorn was no longer standing on top the second wall.  Ossari, fallen god of men, stood there alone.  Lorn had retreated his men to behind the second wall.  The Revenant had ceased their offensive and were awaiting orders from their leader.  The crowd hushed as the leader of men stared at the leader of the Revenant army, waiting for direction.  Ossari made his way down the steps of the wall and into the courtyard where the Silent Sanctum’s army paused.  He made no sudden movements, but walked deliberately for Avendyr. The slits in his armor were still visible from the penetrating blades of Carinna and King Amensol.  As he approached, Avendyr loosed Kole and brushed him toward the army who abruptly guided him from danger while he fought to maintain his place.

                “I’m glad you heard us calling to you,” Avendyr began. “We have been ‘praying’ you would show your face.  We would like to offer you a sacrifice. Rather, we would like to offer you as a sacrifice.”

                Ossari seemed unmoved by the words, standing silently a short distance from Avendyr.  His head cocked lightly as Avendyr spoke.

                “It has been foretold that your doom would come from the Six. We are here to fulfill that prophecy.  This will be your last day.  And now that you have been disgraced, maybe there is a real god you would like to pray to”

                Ossari stood for a moment, still silent.  A pregnant pause finally gave birth to Ossari’s laughter.  After several moments, there were cries of war from the Revenant beyond the wall.  Ossari composed himself and took a solitary step forward.

                “Boys… are foolish.  They always have been,” Ossari’s voice carried as if in the wind itself. “They mimic their fathers, trying to be just like them.  I, as your spiritual father, have made you into the warrior you are, having molded your heritage to my whim.  Your father, as much the liar as you are now, boasting about your prowess, knowing nothing of how the world truly works.  You don’t even know who your family is, what they’ve done, what they will do.”

                Avendyr drew angrier with every word.  He clenched his fist but continued to hold. “I’ve got a question for you,” Ossari said, “since you are so interested in sacrifice.  How many lives would you sacrifice to uphold your rule? How many children would you slaughter to keep your own safe?  Or, how many lives would you ruin to spare your own ruination?  Ah, you are closer to your father than you know. Your father lied, misled his people, covered up his false deeds, and left others to pay the price.  You, I’m afraid, will do the same to your family.  The most enjoyable part is that you won’t even know you’re doing it. I won’t end your life here today. No, no.  But I will end theirs.”  Ossari pointed around him with the tip of his sword, calling out the army at his back.

                “Glad to know you’re afraid of me,” Avendyr yelled.  He turned his head back toward his men behind him.  “For our souls!”

                As Avendyr turned again to face his enemy, Ossari covered ten paced in the time Avendyr covered one.  He grabbed him immediately by the throat and held him in the air.  The armies of Men and Elves studdered in their advance and held their ground, unsure of what to do.  Ossari looked around at them with their king dangling from his grip.

                “This is the last time you see them alive, son of Amensol!” Ossari exclaimed.  He took his grip on Avendyr, pulled him close in to see his eyes, then threw him 20 cubits into a wall, Avendyr crashing down unconscious.  Ossari turned his attention to the masses.  As he began to approach them, the crowd began their battle cries as the captains began forming ranks.  This was their stand.

                Allistan had ran outside in time to see Avendyr hit the wall and he rushed over to help him.  As he was trying to revive his king, he noticed the posture of Ossari and knew this close to the Sanctum, it may be impossible to stop him from entering its gates.  So he did the only thing he knew to do.  He prayed.

                A dark cloud began circling overhead as Ossari moved closer to the armies.  Lorn looked up from his position behind Ossari at the second wall and scoffed at the brooding weather.  It would take more than conjuring clouds to scare his army away, he thought.  He signaled his men to begin encircling Ossari from the rear.  Then, without warning, Ossari moved from where he was to the end of the front row of a group of infantry directly in front of them.  Immediately, their bodies went limp as their heads slowly fell to the ground. Twenty men were decapitated in the blink of an eye. The shock of the attack held Lorn captivated for a moment, questioning his own bravado.  As if he could feel the doubt, Ossari turned from front lines and looked back directly at Lorn.  And he slowly turned his body to face him.  Lorn’s courage sank within him as the demi-god approached him.

                “Men, to me,” Lorn finally ordered as loud as he could muster.  His men, a mixture of concern and reckless abandon, lined up at his side. “It’s been an honor fighting along side you all,” Lorn said to them.  “Don’t make it easy, whatever you do.”

                As Ossari was moving, the ground beneath his feet began to glow with a faint red that got brighter with each step.  Ossari looked down, but pressed on uncaring for whatever conjurings the elves were mustering.  Suddenly, his foot sank below the ground just enough to startle him.  His foot was sinking into the bright red ground beneath his feet.  As he saw smoke rising from the divot, he became more apprehensive and darted away from the ground as fast as he could.  He looked back and saw that the ground that was beneath him was turning to lava. Another soft red glow began to form under his feet.

                “The Dragons!” exclaimed a soldier, as he pointed up to the sky at a glowing ball of fire high into the evening sky lit up the earth below.  It appeared to be moving at an alarming pace directly for them as some soldiers, Revenant and Six alike ran to seek the closest shelter they could find.  Ossari stood mesmerized, as did Lorn and his men.

                A great commotion started swirling around Allistan and the king, still trying to regain his composure after the devastating impact.  Calls of dragons came from passers-by in all directions and Allistan left the king where he was, and stood to locate the crisis.  Dragons had not been seen by the populous in hundreds of years, although some very adventurous individuals had ran across them sporadically through the generations. Dragons would be highly unlikely, but when he stood and got into the open, the dark swirling clouds overhead and a flaming mass seemingly soaring through the sky gave his reason pause.  In any case, it was not safe.  He gathered his wits and looked around for Kole.  Scanning in all directions, he noticed some young boys gathering stones for their brand of warfare in the midst of the chaos.  Allistan spotted Kole in the midst of the larger boys and ran to him, dodging the fleeing masses.  A woman pushed a soldier from behind and stumbled to the ground in front of him.  Allistan weaved around them as he caught her out of the corner of his eye step on his back and leap past in disregard. The threat of harm was more powerful than Avendyr assumed.  He had pushed people to the brink of death, and madness ultimately ensued.  Now, instead of the threat of the Revenant and a demi-god, now there was a third threat.  There was only one thing that could save them, and he didn’t even know what it was.  He shoved his way though the boys and had his hand almost on Kole when Kole spotted Avendyr walking toward Ossari who was still dodging the strange elemental magic that was targeting him.  Kole sprinted after the king just as Allistan got to him.

                “Kole! No!” Allistan shouted as he ran after the boy.  Allistan looked up and saw the ball of flame in the sky was getting closer.  His efforts to catch Kole were hindered by the exodus of people in the opposite direction.  Kole sprinted through the large bodies as nimbly as his mother would have.

                Kole reached Avendyr and grabbed his hand as he walked.  It surprised Avendyr for a moment, but he was glad to have someone by his side to meet this new threat.  Then, Avendyr heard someone shouting Kole’s name from a distance.  He looked back to see Allistan trying to catch up.  He turned and shouted back, “He’s made up his mind, Allistan! He’s not running anymore.  He’s following his king!”

                Allistan stopped running and looked at Kole.  Kole turned and looked over at Allistan.  “Kole, please,” Allistan held out his hand.  For a moment, the boy tarried, almost reaching out his hand to the one who had cared so much for him in the midst of his loss. Just as he was thinking of holding out his hand, he felt the heavy weight of the king’s bracer on his shoulder, somehow freezing his whole body.  Avendyr pulled him close, and the boy did not fight it.

                Allistan stood there with his spirit defeated.  The child of his love seemingly poisoned by the silver tongue of a foolish young king destined for ruin.  Avendyr looked down at the boy.

                “Are you ready to grab fate, Kole? You and me…” Avendyr said to him with the confidence of a mighty warrior.  Kole stood there, unable to flee, unable to resist the urge to follow the king forward.  Avendyr looked up and saw Ossari in the distance. He took his hand off of the boy and ran for the distracted foe.

                Ossari sensed a threat and looked up in time to see Avendyr charging his location.  Ossari turned and headed his direction, ready to end the war in one clean blow.

                BOOM!

                Ossari blinked, dust in his eyes a pain in his chest.  Where was he?  Where was Amensol’s son.  What just happened.  Ossari looked around.  He was laying on the ground 10 cubits from where he had been standing.  He picked himself up as quickly as his mortal body would allow and strained to see through a cloud of dust and ash and flame.  He approached it warily.

                CRACK!

                Avendyr covered his eyes, momentarily blinded and lying on the ground, blown over by a concussion.  A lightning strike had landed in the center of the swirling torrent of dust and fire where he had been looking a moment ago.

                All the motion around the battlefield was ground to a halt at this new terror.  There was a sense of awe and fear that gripped guard and general alike.  No one dared move and the dust and ash began to settle out of the air.  Avendyr felt two hands on his shoulders as Kole rushed over to him to help him to his feet.  But he just laid there, propped up on one elbow awaiting the revealing of the monster in the midst.

                A silhouette began to emerge from the center of the red glow.  It was the silhouette of a man.  He walked toward Avendyr, almost peacefully.  As it drew closer, another silhouette appeared from behind it. The short, slender curvacious frame was undoubtedly an elven female.  The light of the flames began to subside and the dust in the air began to dissipate and Avendyr began to make out  what he was looking at.

                Allistan could not see Kole or Avendyr.  They had been there a moment ago, but he lost them when he was flung to the ground. His eyes were still spotty from the brilliant flash of light that had followed it.  He finally caught a glimpse of Avendyr and Kole on the ground near the glowing mass.  He rushed over to help them when he stopped in his tracks.  Before him emerged a man with skin like bronze, glowing as if fire itself was shut up in his bones.  He wore no fine clothes, no jewels, carried no weapon.  His eyes glowed with a soft light emanating from within.  His feet were bare but he wore a small linen cloak with the hood draped over his head.  It appeared as though fire was seeping from his unclenched hands.  He stopped a man’s length from Avendyr’s feet, where he continued to lay motionless.  The man looked over his right shoulder as a female appeared.  She was clothed in a white woolen gown and had a bright white aura that shrouded her from any easy glances in her direction.  Allistan could see, however she was carrying a staff that coarsed with lightning up and down the shaft. On top was an orb of a silvery metal he could not place.  It seemed iridescent in quality, like you could see into the orb.  It was mesmerizing.  She joined the man in front of Avendyr.

                Avendyr looked up from his indefensible position sprawled out on the ground with only a young boy for assistance.  He weighed his options as they stood silently over him.

                “Are you with us… or are you with them,” Avendyr finally said.  His tone conveyed strength, but his heart longed for a comforting word.

                The bright elven female took a step forward and answered with a voice that seemed to come from every direction. “We are against them,” she said, pointing gracefully in the direction of the Revenant army. “But we are not with you.  We are with another.”

                “But have no fear, human,” the fire wielding man spoke up and stepped again to her side,” for your salvation has finally come.”

                Allistan looked on in disbelief, even though he was a believer.  His amazement drew him closer to them as they spoke.

                The man spoke again. “You called for us and you have been answered.” He lifted his eyes from Avendyr to Allistan and stared into his eyes.  “The Suns of Terminus have now come.”

                Then they turned around and faced the direction of Ossari.

    • 237 posts
    December 11, 2019 7:14 PM PST

    The long awaited speech! You have a knack for expressive dialogue which really shines through. And you develop characters well with it. When you mentioned Hugreth, I instantly recalled his personality and character. RIP Hugreth :)  Keep up the great work!

    • 43 posts
    December 11, 2019 7:36 PM PST
    Thx man. This one was difficult which is why it took so long. I was a little timid about tackling the large pieces of known lore and making sure I fit my story around it in a believable way. I also had to rewrite some pieces after getting some feedback on the balance between allistan and avendyr. But thx for the feedback bruh
    • 43 posts
    December 11, 2019 7:36 PM PST
    Thx man. This one was difficult which is why it took so long. I was a little timid about tackling the large pieces of known lore and making sure I fit my story around it in a believable way. I also had to rewrite some pieces after getting some feedback on the balance between allistan and avendyr. But thx for the feedback bruh