Monday, May 21, 2012

The greatest of sagas eventually ends...

Axes flash, broadswords swing, Shining armours piercing ring. Horses run with polished shield, fight those bastards till they yield. Mightnight mare and blood red roan, fight to keep this land your own. Sound the horn and call the cry, how many of them can we make die!

"Jarl! They're out! We're the last ones left." Lahsaa Nethir shouted often the vicious melee despatching a pair of skeletons easily with his quarterstaff, blowing away a third with a blast of magic.
"About time! The smell of this corrupt air is worse than Fith's cooking." Ragnar Morkai snarled, batting aside a pair of animates with his shield as if they were nothing, one collosal mace blow destroying another three.
"Fith's cooking is worse than the witches lab? Really?" his elder brother Hati laughed, decimating yet more undead with his spear, running four or five zombies through with one thrust before tearing it through.
"Hey Fith, perhaps you should take lessons?" Arya Ardaddottir's laugh rang out over the clash and ring of steel on steel and crushing of bone, as she easily swatted away half a dozen feyunds that had charged her from behind as if hoping to take her by surprise.
"Ja, though only if we want something else in the house that can kill us." Saga Bjorndottir's laugh was jovial as she wove gracefully in and out of the undead that still pushed forward into the small fort that they had been calling home for the past month. The undead swung for her, but each swung was too slow and they were sent toppling to the floor before they could register her movement.
Olaf Hargeson's laugh was deep and throaty as he waded through lines of skeletons with two maces drawn sending bone and rotten flesh spinning to each side as he stroke forward. "There's enough in the house that could kill us already! I'd be more scared of the food turning us into frogs, or worse."
"Fith is more likely to turn himself into a frog in the process." Skade's voice was serious, but Lahsaa - closest to her, noted the twinkle in her eye and the corners of her lips upturned.
"Pah! I don't need the witches potion tricky to bring curses down on each of you... But it'll be your crotches that itch and rot, and boils breaking out on your rear!" Fith the Egilsonn hissed, flicking holy water from a vial in his hand. Where it caught the undead that advanced on him their rotten skin hissed and bubbled, breaking the foul magics that bound them and forcing their collapse.
"My boot with be in your mouth before you try your curses on me again." Bjorn grunted humourlessly as he swung a large double handed mace in a large arc - obliterating a massive swathe of undead creatures. "Does this mean we can get out of this shit hole, Jarl?"
"Ja. When we have killed the rest in this fort!" Ragnar shot back, as he destroyed yet more of the risen dead. "I hope you've all been keeping count."
"I didn't realise you could count past ten my Jarl, you have your boots on after all. So we're going to all beat you easily. Even Lahsa'." Arya's called out mischeviously.
"I'm the Jarl, you're all my men, any of your kills are mine."
"You can have my kills over my dead body. And if you kill me, who's going to look after you?" Bjorn shouted from nearly the other side of the compound as he strode back towards the bulk of the group.
"You don't think I can look after myself?" The group was relaxed, after so many years adventuring together, fighting battles and wars across almost the entirity of Arda with forays into Sharda and Elysium as well - they barely had to concentrate on such weak undead such as the ones they were fighting. Even skeletons - which moved with a quickness that seemed impossible for the lack of bone and muscles were despatched without so much as a thought.
The fort stank of death and decay and Lahsaa had pulled his bandana over his face to cover the worst of it and he leant against the pallisade to wipe the sweat from his brow. Although he had been a part of the family for almost eight years now he still had never truly gotten used to how tireless the group seemed they enjoyed a fight. This wasn't fighting for their life, this was almost a game to them. But the sorcerer was still on edge, and cast his eyes out across the wastes of Tholon where they had spent the last three month raiding the countries borders to give them the distraction enough to sneak into the Mountain of Night for the second time in three years and finally put an end to the Liche of Eternal Dusk - the ruler of the blasted land - and its pet Dracoliche.
Although necromantically tainted soulfire permeated everything in soulfire, something was different here. It seemed to be building up on the horizon and the mage did not like it one bit.

Follow orders as you're told, make their yellow blood run cold. Fight until you die or drop a force like ours is hard to stop. Close your mind to stress and pain, fight till you're no longer sane. Let not one damn cur pass by, how many of them can we make die!

"Jarl! I think it's really time to go now!" Lahsaa called as seemingly the last undead fell.
Ragnar looked up at the mage, noting the urgency etched across his face and nodded his agreement. "Ja, we need drink! And decent Llaminusian food! And women in our beds!" A cheer went up around the Llaminusians as Lahsaa's lips twitched into a smile. As they started to gather round the Jarl in the middle of the courtyard one lone skeleton appeared at the gate, shambling towards the group. Olaf, Bjorin, Hati, Arya and Saga glanced first at each other and then rushed for the skeleton all at once. Hati - the tallest and faster as the units scout looked to take the lead until Olaf swung out a mace to trip him. In retaliation, Hati swung the haft of his spear, tripping the bald man as he ran. Arya and Saga outstripped Bjorn and both had raised their weapons to crush the skeleton when it exploded into pieces in front of them. They skidded to a halt, confused, and looking around wildly, Saga noticing Lahsaa with an outstretched hand and a smirk on his face.
"No fair Lahsaa! It was mine!" the devotee wailed, pouting slightly as Arya laughed, pushing the younger woman lightly
"Stop fucking about now." Ragnar called. "We need to head for the gorge, we've done everything we've needed to do we've gotten everyone out, prisoners, the Ithronian army, even some who have seen the evil of Tholon's ways." the was a slightly manic glint in his eye. "Now we go home! Kharach's Black Hand strike again!" he roared, raising his mace.
Some quarter of an hour later, the group neared the Twilight Gorge - one of the few ones to sneak into Tholon as they had which had been just what they had needed for this. It had taken Ragnar and the Einherjar seven years to gather all the evidence they had needed to prove that Tholon was working against the Empire and even then Axir itself had refused to act. So - with the backing of most of the rest of the Empire and with their armies acting as distraction Ragnar - general of all of Ithrons armies - had led the adventurers of Ithron into Tholon and cut off their leadership, stopping many of the evil practices that took place in the hive of evil that was the Mountain of Night.
The gorge was narrow - wide enough only for seven people to stand side by side and it had been the perfect place to push through largely undetected - and cut through cliffs nearly one hundred feet high.
Here they stopped, looking back at the country of Tholon, each with a satisfied look on their face.
"The pits of Tholon will dry up, the wells of debauchary and the abominations they raise will rot and one day, life will return to this accursed land." Fith intoned, casting his hand through the air, runestones between each of his fingers, the symbols on the carved wood glowing faintly. "We have done a wonderous thing in this place my Jarl, the skalds will tell tales of it for hundreds of years to come. And you! Your name will live on throughout history. Jarl Ragnar Morkai of the Einherjar! Best of all the generals of the southland of Ithron! Conquorer of Tholon, the damned land!"
"Conquorer of Tholon, I like that." Ragnar mused, scratching his chin. "You'll have to make sure the tale is told Fith. Tell it far and wide!"
Fith grinned, "What else would a skald do Jarl, if not tell the greatest of stor...." his stopped mid sentence as he looked into the air, up at the rockface. Some twenty foot above them sat a raven, watching the group through impassively black eyes. It seemed to meet the Seers eyes who closed his mouth slowly. "So, he said after a few seconds. "The time has come."

Guard your women and children well, send these bastards back to hell. We'll teach them the ways of war, they won't come here any more. Use your shield and use your head, fight till every one is dead. Raise the flag up to the sky, how many of them can we make die!

"Something's following us!" Lahsaa exclaimed urgently, disappearing from the spot he had been stood and appearing some twenty foot up the rock face, clinging to the stone tightly. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped, the word "Gods..." escaping as a breath.
"Lahsa'! What is it?" Arya called up. The mage didn't answer and Hati picked up a rock, hurling it at Lahsaa, making a sharp cracking noise as it struck the wall mere inches from the mages head. In a second, Lahsaa was on the ground again, disappearing and reappearing in front of the Jarl.
"An undead army follows us. I... I don't know how, I don't know who leads them but..." he was breathless and pale, fighting to keep his voice steady. "Jarl, from the size of the necromantic aura - there must be thousands of them. Heading straight for here. There's more there than the group of adventurers on the other side of this valley could ever hope to destroy.
Ragnar scowled. "Fucking Tholon, always more abominations hidden away. There is more undead in Tholon than there is flakes of snow in the homeland."
"How far?" Hati urged Lahsaa, catching the mages green robes. Lahsaa stammered for a moment, shaking his head. "Lahsaa!"
"I... a quarter of an hour at most!" he said desperately. "It's not long enough, not to seal the gorge like we planned! It's ten minutes to the other side at a fast run and then another twenty to make the preparations.
The group fell silent. The joviality of just an hour before lost completely as they each considered their options.
"We need to hold them here." Bjorn's voice was like a death knell, but each of them knew it was true. Further into the gorge it widened out and wasn't nearly as defensible as this end, this was the only place they could hold it.
"But... all the supplies are back at the other end." Lahsaa said slowly, knowing where this was likely to go and determined to talk them all out of it before the idea could really sink in. "We won't be able to bring it down and fight off the undead."
"No Lahsa'. You won't be able to." Arya's voice was small, but unwavering.
Lahsaa looked at the faces of each of the men and women he had come to know and love as family for near enough a decade. "No..."
"Can you think of another way sorcerer?" Skade said impassively. "The undead can't be allowed back into Llaminusia, we're the only ones here to stay and defend it."
Lahsaa's breath quickened as his mind raced, trying to think of another way, a way that meant they wouldn't die in this Gods forsaken land.
"Someone still needs to back and set up the explosives though Ragnar." Hati said slowly. "Or at least send back instructions on how to do it."
Ragnar nodded at his brother and turned tot he mage stood behind him who was still working out how to save them all.
"Lahsaa. I have one last order for you, then you are freed from your duty as my bondsman."
The mage glanced up at the bigger man, the Jarl's name forming weakly on his lips. "Ragnar..."
"You are to go with Skade and Fith back Llaminusia and do what you need to do to collapse this ravine, everything you need we know is there. You will do it as fast as you can. And we will stay and keep the undead away here."
"Ragnar... no... I can't leave you all." Lahsaa said desperately.
"I can tell Lahsaa how to set it up Jarl, I don't need to head back with him." Skade's voice cut across the Ithronian.
"This is my word as Jarl. It cannot be done without you Lahsaa and witch - I'm not sure which I fear more of your mother, grandmother and grandfather but none of them will forgive me if this is where you fall. You must take your mothers place, remember. And there is still the work of the land that you haven't yet complete."
Ragnar turrned on Fith as each of the rest looked on, the enormity of what they now had to do sinking in. "Seer, you go back with them and spread the word of what we do here now..."
The seer shook his head. "I'm sorry my Jarl. But I cannot. I cannot run away from my fate and my fate is here with each of you. I've seen it. It was the first thing I saw when I was a babe and now... It comes to pass."
Ragnar frowned, but nodded wordlessly. "Very well - I think the fates might smile on us if we keep our Seer with us."
The Jarl turned back to the mage and the witch. "You know what you must do. Don't waste time fucking around here. Go!"
"But... Ragnar..." tears streaked down the Ithronians cheeks, desperate to find another way out of this.
"FUCKING GO!" Ragnar roared, raising his mace.
Lahsaa stood his ground, dashing the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. He raised a hand and spoke a flurry of words that meant nothing to any of the Llaminusians. Magic flared around the group, weapons began to glow and auras surrounded each of the seven that were about to sacrifice themselves.
"You were not bad for a weak, Ithronian bloodmage." Hati called to him with a sombre smile, raising his spear.
Arya and Saga rushed the mage, both of them hugged in. Fresh tears fell from the Ithronians eyes as it broke far too quickly and both the women joined their place on the line.
"I still don't like you." Bjorn sneered, before his expression softened. "Hati is right though."
"Lahsaa, Skade - sing out sagas through the width and breadth of Arda. Just don't put the words in a book... this tale is better than parchment and ink. Fateweaver be with you."
"Find us in the halls." Olaf called over. "We'll be at the table making the most noise."
"Thank you all." Lahsaa choked out as tears obscured his vision again.
"You can thank us by making sure none of these undead make it through to Llaminusia." Ragnar told him. "Go."
Together, Lahsaa and Skade turned from the group, running as fast as they could through the gourge.

Dawn has broke, the time has come, move your feet to a marching drum. We'll win the war and pay the toll, we'll fight as one in heart and soul. Midnight mare and blood red roan, fight to keep this land your own. Sound the horn and call the cry, how many of them can we make die.

"Seven of us. The gorge is wide enough to fit Seven. Seven is auspicious." Fith nodded, handing fishing a small jar of blue woad and inscribing sigils on the skin of each of them.
"Each of the Seven will smile of us for this." Saga said.
"Kharach most of us." Ragnar nodded, pulling out a jar of black dye and running it over his right hand. "As we are his Black Hand." he pressed his hand over the left eye of each of his Einherjar in turn, before turning it on his own face. "He sent us to Ithron for a purpose. And that purpose ends here. Even if this is the biggest fucking army that Tholon has raised, we are here to destroy it, Why is that?"
"Because we're the fucking Einherjar!" they all roared back, raising their weapons high.
"Ja! Too fucking right we are. And are we afraid of a bunch of pissy undead? That we were all pissing on when we were still sucking at our mothers teats?"
"No Jarl!"
"We're going to FIGHT! We're going to destroy them all. We're going to let them know what it means to fear the Einherjar! And fear Kharach"
"For Kharach!"
"For Kharach! For the Seven! We are the Einherjar! We are the Black Hand! HAIL TO THE RAVEN!" Ragnar raise the units banner high into the air, and a religious aura glowed around his, bathing them all in a holy light.
"HAIL TO THE RAVEN!" echoed Ragnar's men.
Silence fell as the mists thickened around them, and slowly - out of the gloom the undead started to appear. Row upon row, upon row of skeletons, zombies, animates, feyands and other abominations besides.
The Einherjar wall, indomitable against countless foes across Arda readied itself as Arya began to sing, each of the Einherjar picking up with the words just several words in. "Axes flash, broadswords swing, shining armour's piecing ring. Horses run with a polished shield, fight those bastards till they yield. Midnight mare and blood red roan, fight to keep this land your own. Sound the horn and call the cry...
The battle joined as the Einherjar roared the last line loud enough for the Gods themselves to hear. "How many of them can we make die!"

((Song credit: Heather Alexander - March Of Cambreadth))

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