Kael’s heart raced.
Footstep after footstep fell crunching dead weeds and dirt as he climbed the steep incline.
He hadn’t slept very well the night before but whether that was due to anxiousness or anticipation he did not know. His arms and legs burned but he was filled with the adrenaline that came with battle. He savored it as it filled his blood. Bow in hand, he charged up the hill.
The first one jumped towards him, massive two-handed sword raised like some crazed reaver flying through the air. Kael drew and loosed an arrow that punched through the attacker’s armor, dropping him mid-flight. He slung his bow and drew his sword as another jumped at him. Kael met him with a shoulder before he could bring his blade down, knocking him to his back. He slid the point of his blade through the warrior’s neck and looked up the hill at the rest of his attackers.
This hill held a crucial vantage point overlooking the entire pass and the movements of both armies. The warriors who had taken the hill had done so in the dead of night, evading detection by Kael’s own scouts. There was only one faction left that had the skill to take such a valuable position without raising an alarm, the royal scouts from the Amerdan clan. They were well trained, but Kael was the king, trained from birth in the fine arts of magic and combat.
Kael noticed their sigil sewn on the outside of their cloaks. This would explain why his army had encountered a well-calculated catapult barrage early in the battle. The precision of the attack took Kael by surprise at first, but, having studied the battlefield thoroughly, he was able to figure out where the attacks were coming from and launch his own counter attack, smashing the enemy to splinters. He then organized a party comprised of his best warriors to retake the hill while the army met the rest of the Amerdan clan on the battlefield.
The band of royal scouts on the hill was dwindling. With renewed confidence, and his warriors at his back, Kael pressed on. He met his final enemy at the top of the cliff that overlooked the battlefield; with his worn armor and faded cloak, he had the look of a seasoned officer. Kael met him with a viscous overhand swing, locking his blade with the scout’s falchion. Both warriors made an effort to wrench their weapons away but the effort ended with sword and falchion clattering to the ground . The scout drew a dagger from his sleeve. Kael side-stepped his first lunge and grabbed his arm. For a moment they struggled over the knife and Kael felt his arms quiver as his enemy pushed. He saw the man smirk triumphantly as if he knew he had the upper hand. His enemy’s sudden smugness ignited Kael’s adrenaline and he threw his forehead into the man’s nose. He heard a crack of bone and the man reeled in a spurt of blood, holding his face. Kael leveled a shoulder sending him plummeting to the valley floor.
He had finally kneeled and picked up his sword when he felt an explosion followed by a wash of heat behind him. He turned and locked eyes with a scout, sword raised, unmoving, with a twisted, painful grimace on his face and smoke rising from his back. The scout slowly fell to the ground, motionless.
“That’s two you owe me, your Grace!” shouted Aria from behind, as she cast another fireball, sending a scout into a screaming frenzy over the edge of the cliff.
“Only one, have you forgotten the ambush on the way here?” he replied
“And the ones we encountered in the morning…” added Krassus as he strolled up behind the party “…if we’re keeping track.” He was scraping the last bits of blood off of his axe.
Krassus was a touch slower than the rest, but Kael figured it was because he fought with so much force. He was the best warrior the king had ever met. Kael, Krassus and Aria reached the top of the cliff, and surveyed the field below.
The battle was near its end. Hundreds of soldiers were still fighting, pushing the enemy towards the Ozgard castle. As their king, Kael became all too familiar with this scene…
“The day is ours!” bellowed Krassus, spreading his arms.
“Aye”, replied Kael, pondering.
“The Amerdans won’t recover from this anytime soon,” said Aria, smiling.
“Surely, now we will finally retake Ozgard,” added Krassus. A few years ago, his father died trying to protect Ozgard from the siege of the Amerdan clan. The end of this battle marked a significant turn of events. The big man sighed.
Kael was having trouble sharing his excitement.
“…and then what?” he asked sullenly.
Krassus was taken aback.
“Your Grace, we will have gained access to the eastern lands. Then we can focus on pushing the rest of the Amerdans back to wherever they came from.”
“We may even retake the great mountain pass and replenish our Rift Stone supply. This will give our wizards an advantage in the next battles for many years to come. We’ll finally be able to grow our empire,” added Aria, trying to remain optimistic.
“An empire of rubble, built on death and emptiness,” replied Kael, looking out over the battlefield.
Aria and Krassus regarded their king with disbelief.
“My friends, the clan wars began over 600 years ago, and now there is nothing left to fight for. The eastern lands are ruins and the great mines of the mountain pass are depleted. Soon enough, we will be fighting over food and water! It is over, this land has died and there’s nothing left to fight for. It’s time to look for a new place.”
Krassus turned to his king, his friend, with whom he had survived many battles, victories and defeats. Sometimes, though, it was difficult not to talk to him as he would a younger brother.
“And where will we go…Hmm? South, North, beyond the sea?”
“It’s past time we opened the old chambers and reactivated the portal; leave Marra to its fate,” replied Kael.
His warriors didn’t answer. They knew he was right. Marra was a dying land and the only way their people could continue was if they found another place to settle. They needed a fresh start; a second chance.
On the top of the cliff, the wind rustled dried shrubs and kicked up dust.
They stood watching as the battle slowly dissolve into nothing. The soldiers continued to move in ragged formations of three or four, disposing of the stragglers that continued to fight and making prisoners of those who didn’t. Aria sighed thinking of how far they had come.
Could we really reactivate the portal? She thought.
Aria remembered when she was younger learning history lessons from the Matriarch of her clan the chambers had been closed for centuries.
“And how do you propose we do that?” she asked.
Kael looked at his warriors; friends he had known since so long ago and told them his plan. On top of the cliff, Kael formulated his plan and his warriors listened.
He started by explaining that he had spent the previous few years studying the ancient texts concerning the portal and how to open it. He then described how he strategically met the Amerdans on this ground so that his army could push them back beyond Ozgard castle, opening the eastern and southern roads for the first time in a long time. Aria would go east to Ernsof city to search for the portal’s navigation map in the Tomb of the Ancients. Krassus was to go south to retrieve the portal’s power source.
“Through the marshes?” The big man clarified.
“Good,” Krassus smiled.
The marshes were notorious for their plethora of weird creatures and Krassus was something of a slayer. Suddenly, he was excited about his role in the journey
Kael felt satisfied that his warriors would be able to do their part and return with the pieces they needed to start fresh. There was a lot of work to do but it was the beginning of a quest that would save his people.