8/1/2022 at 5:56
The Second War of Night, Part X: The Battle for Kald, Part II
Ohlsana's rot continued to expand outwards, though it was noted by some particularly keen observers that the spread, once reliably all-encompassing, was no longer so guaranteed now that it had reached the wide expanses beyond the narrow confines of the mountains. As Severin grew late, the creeping taint nevertheless drew nearer to the Underking's spear in Kentorakro, and to the Monolith of the Apocalyptia in the Mamashi Grasslands.
While training and preparations in Kald continued at a rapid pace, the Underking made known His presence, and with no small measure of resignation announced His intent to withdraw the colossal spears embedded in the earth, weapons empowered with death essence set to bind the Earthen Lord and heavily restrict His power. Shuddering as their guardian souls shimmered pale blue, with a crack of sound the spears shattered into pure white essence, streaming back to the God of Death in a single motion and infusing Him with regathered might.
A great heaving from the bones of the earth followed, the very land itself shuddering in triumphant quakes as the Earthen Lord shook free that which had restrained Him and He returned to His full strength. Under the guidance of Earthcaller Khuzrol, the Earthen Kin, among them Yettave, Almol, Everly, Nipsy, Kurak, and Alela, took advantage of this situation to begin reinforcing the Apocalyptia Monoliths, etching the five primal runes of the earth upon the edifices before reinforcing them with copious volumes of ashes and obsidian and finally letting their blood spill freely to feed the hungry stone and reinforce it against the encroaching rot.
The sun set on the 20th day of Severin, and the Malevolent's Emissary spoke up, notifying Bloodloch of stirring within Czjetija's Primal Eye. The Empire began to scout a suitable place for their forces to make a stand against the Shadow's armies. The split in the Tarea Mountains near the Shadow Keep was chosen as an advantageous chokepoint, and Bloodloch quickly mobilised to prepare the battlefield.
War Minister Bulrok and Lord Rijetta Alhazrad took time to plan out the best use of the soldiers they had raised up from slavery and transformed by the power of their Gods. Together, they formed strategies, debated battle plans, and discussed what combinations of soldiers to use and under what circumstances. Their expertise would soon be put to the test.
Bellowing out across the land once again in that imperious voice, Shadow Lord Murgraxis called for the razing of Kald, dismissing the Empire's amassed defences as a pitiful effort. Massive pressure radiated then from the Primal Eye as shadowspawn poured through the gate in massive numbers, preparing to march out of Sterion and into the mountains. At the vanguard, three monstrously large shadow beasts led the charge, and the army started to push forward.
At the peak of the Tarea Mountains, the vanguard met a lone figure, solitary and resolute against the incoming tide. The Progenitor of the Consanguine watched with his customary smirk, his pale frame remaining upright even as rockslides shook the mountain rage. The presence of Abhorash fomented great rage in Murgraxis, who, reminded of the Progenitor's defeat of Ati, promised that doom was coming for him.
The trio of beasts descended upon the peak with inhuman speed, and only then did Abhorash finally stir, extending a slender hand to slit open his own palm, a drop of blood falling to imbue the mountaintop. A massive stalagmite of blood erupted from the earth, impaling the nearest of the beasts clean through its midsection before exploding in tremendous force, tearing its quarry apart. Splinters of blood flew through the air like shrapnel in its detonation, damning the second creature to death in a flurry of sanguine spears. The third lunged at Abhorash, who blurred into supernatural motion in an elegant sidestep, the beast barely missing his face.
Tri-claws of crystallised blood sprang forth to shred the beast, the force of their collision sundering the mountain peak on which they both stood. As the beast fell and Abhorash regained his footing on the ground, the roiling horde continued to swarm, undeterred by the felling of their vanguard. The Progenitor then called on Thronekeeper Whirran to lift his trumpet, the piping blast echoing across the realm as a single deafening note mustering the forces of the Sanguine Fist to war.
The volcano shook as the stomping footsteps of rockfiends, the slithering of shifting horrors, the keening wail of tainted ashes, and the steady marching of faceless legionnaires echoed through Sapience, the army of Bloodloch mobilising for battle and meaning to match the invading shadowspawn hordes head on. Under Bulrok and Rijetta's command, so it was that Mjoll, Almol, Alela, Ehtias, Elene, Yettave, Taj, Kurak, Nipsy, Paxe, Tina, Whirran, Tetchta, and Naadu stepped into the battlefield to make war. Soldiers clashed in a cataclysmic battle, the enhanced troops of Bloodloch going blow for blow with the shadowspawn. The Empire's forces fought relentlessly and without any hint of mercy, felling everything that dared cross their path.
While the battle raged on in the Tarea Mountains, Valeria led an incursion into the Primal Eye itself, issuing a challenge to Murgraxis for all the world to hear. Taunting and belittling the Shadow Lord, joining Valeria were Saltz, Jezriel, Xavin, Iesid, Jhura, Aisling, Cinnamae, and Eaku, clearing the streets of as many shadowspawn as they could cull in an effort to reach the rift, which, so far as they knew remained barred, shielded by Murgraxis's web of gloam.
Their provocations proved successful as Murgraxis let down his shield of darkness, challenging the primitives, as he named them, to come and face him. Though he easily triumphed over all nine of them, including cameo appearances from Linne and Corvo, Duiran had bloodied his nose and, intentionally or otherwise, distracted him from the conflict on the larger stage.
On the field, Mjoll held the western flank while Whirran held the east, Elene and Taj patrolling the centre carrying out scouting manouevres and relaying updates and information. As their troops collided violently again and again, the remainder of the Empire's forces patrolled the brink, mopping up any interlopers that made it past their front lines. Whilst carnaged reigned, much of the losses were on the side of the Shadow, though one particularly diligent refreshment Goblin fell to the rot in the midst of serving his last meal.
Meanwhile, midnight fell across the land, and the rot made its move, seeping into the Urubamba river mere steps away from Kald's doorstep. Ruthless storms and sand and soil rose across the Mamashi, the wrath of the earth manifesting to protect the Apocalyptia Monolith from harm. Driven forward by the ruthless authority of the Shadow General, the darkspawn advanced into Kald, meeting a resistance they could not possibly have fathomed. Even with Bloodloch's armies holding back the bulk of their invading forces, Shadow's numbers swelled, gathering in groups before the village.
Reaper Avrax led the warcry of the Kald resistance, shouting the familiar Carnifex epiteth, "STRENGTH IN SLAUGHTER!" The militia, having spent a week learning under the young Kobold Carnifex, screamed back in turn, "YES REAPER!", standing ready with their bardiches and warhammers, confident in spite of their inexperience. Jermar the Templar Knight, donned in the gleaming vestments of the Varouk-saad, banished the gloom of the highest darkness, his trainees grim-faced yet resolute, wielding both tower and spear. Adopting a shield-wall formation under the Templar's orders, they stood firm and determined to see the coming dawn.
Huntleader Tomor, having arranged his archers on the rooftops and stairs for the best vantage positions, told his forces to focus on the flyers and to ready their bows. Surveilling the battlefield, the veteran Kald hunters, Ater and Beard, alongside the Duiran Ranger's many students, took up bows as one, nocking arrows and waiting for the order to loose. As Avrax pounded his chest armour and Jermar's righteous aura flared bright, the order from Tomor finally came, archers loosing their bows and letting fly a rain of arrows toward the enemy. Though many missed, some found purchase, and the twin shots of the veterans drew the first blood of the engagement: puncturing a shadow-ghast and claiming the monstrosity's life.
On the front lines stood Roux, Jondyrr, Molotok, Lenoriel, Eaku, Feirenz, Linne, Knigi, Reaeve, Eliadon, Alystrine, Jhura, Xavin, Kalena, Valeria, Aisling, Iesid, Sryaen, Saltz, Teramasce, Keldrad, Myrnma, Orhm, Sheryni, and Rasani, the massed group fiercely throwing themselves into battle alongside the Kaldian militia. Great silver bells rang out under Rasani's direction, their booming chimes ripping through countless shadowspawn even while the adventurers wielded sabre and spirit bomb, Guardian blessing and jade fire all working in tandem to repel the threat.
Battle now raged on two fronts, and chaos truly reigned. With the trio of Seluno guild tutors screaming words of encouragement and commands to hold the line, and the Bloodlochians in the north shouting violent exhortations of their own, the clamour of battle had never sounded more loudly and more fiercely. The enhanced soldiers of the Empire continued laying waste to the darkspawn, seemingly losing no ground while scores more fell on the edges of Kald to the gathered might of bell and spell and magic and melee arrayed against the darkness.
Finally, with roars of triumph, the Shadow's line broke within the Tarean battlefield, the last of their committed forces decimated, crushed by Bloodloch's powerful host. Victory in the north inspired the resistance, and, despite Murgraxis's dismissive shouting and attempts to muster Rhyot - whose Shadowlord moniker momentary confused the General for one of their own - to his side, on they fought, Avrax and Jermar and Tomor lending their voices in defiance of the Shadow's claim.
Rejoined by Bloodloch following their victory on the field, Kald and its ragtag militia, its farmers and its fisherman, had done the impossible: held the line. With the first glimmers of light peeking over the horizon's edge, the threat of dawn and dwindling numbers committed to the effort conspired to force the Shadow to withdraw, the last of the aberrations cut down without mercy or restraint.
And yet among the raucous shouts of triumph and celebratory yelling from all sides, exultation in victory waned as the adrenalin began to fade, the cost of their victory and the price of the butcher's bill becoming plain. Soon, all that could be heard were the cries of mothers parted from their sons, children torn fom their families, and husbands bereft of their wives. For many, nay, most among them, this was the first they seen of war, many of them vomiting or screaming in shock from the experience. The villagers began seeing to their dead, doing their work in muted silence.
While a great victory had been won in Kald, few wanted to state the obvious: that the Shadow would return, and in force, before long.
Penned by my hand on Gosday, the 23rd of Severin, in the year 504 MA.