Events post #317: The Second War of Night, Part XI: The Battle for Kald: Part III

8/4/2022 at 0:00
The Second War of Night, Part XI: The Battle for Kald: Part III

Some weeks had passed since Bloodloch's decisive victory in the north and Kald continued to stubbornly survive, with only token raids and skirmishing parties sent forth from the Eye to test the defences. The Seluno guilds pressed their trainees even harder, while others still berated the ragtag militiamen in an attempt to convince them to abandon their defence and flee their home. They refused.

In another twist of apposite coincidence, the situation at the Carnifex Keep grew more dire in the month of Lady Malevolent's namesake, and She lent Her own heart to the effort of sparing its destruction. While Bloodloch harvested countless mortal hearts to feed the defence efforts, Murgraxis once more made known his presence when midnight fell on the 8th day of the month. Promising Kald that their days were - quite literally - numbered, the Shadow Dragon made known his intent to bring a final siege to the village when next the midnight hour fell.

Dozens gathered in the small village, ready to give their lives for the defence. What had begun as Reave's lone vigil had swiftly become a rallying point - a beacon for the greater good, a promise of hope, and of the world's survival. Night fell and swaths of shadowspawn, enlivened and motivated by the coming darkness, converged at the Eye's edges, monstrous beasts, ghasts, aberrations, and all manner of monstrosities arranging themselves into an angular formation as they prepared to march. Once more did Bloodloch's armies step forth to meet them in the theatre of the Tarean Mountains, their divinely-engineered soldiers pressing forward under the Empire's lash.

From Enorian, a sonorous sound rang throughout the city, and the Exarchs Aban, Berrad, and Saebi, emerged from their Bastion, clad in polished armour and resplendent light, ready for the battle to come. Their arrival at Kald raised no small few number of eyebrows, but most were glad of the support. Quickly taking stock of the situation, they conferred among themselves and counselled resolve to all present, of trust and faith in the light, and confidence in vanquishing the darkness.

Night deepened and the hordes poured down the mountains like a cresting wave of black. The enhanced soldiers of the Empire roared with battle lust, and the two armies clashed, Bloodloch determined to give absolutely no ground. Yet despite their efforts, the numbers of the shadowspawn swelled to hideous proportions, endless swarms pushing past even the considerably well-defended battle lines of the Empire to regroup at the outskirts of Kald.

Murgraxis raised his voice again, ordering Ohlsana's armies forward. And forward they went. Echoing their first battle, Reaper Avrax bellowed orders to the militia, who hastened to comply, returning his thunderous cry of "STRENGTH IN SLAUGHTER!" with one of their own, the rest of the Carnifex soon joining them. Templar Jermaw hurried to arrange a shield-wall, insisting on no gaps in the line. While the men clamoured to get their towers up, he let fly a call that had recently begun to take root in the heart of the Beacon; "Until the dawn, WE ARE THE LIGHT!" came his booming voice, but it was not alone. Vanguard Sryaen and Pentarch Kalena lifted their own voices, and the rest of Enorian followed suit. The Exarchs joined in with warcries of their own, and the shield-wall came together.

Atop a nearby farmhouse, Huntmaster Tomor called for his archers to raise bows and, in a moment of pause that felt like a lifetime, the dozens of adventurers, the three Exarchs, the Seluno tutors, and the militia, all held a breath, girding themselves for what was to come. Cutting their losses to join the battle below, Bloodloch entered the fray and, following the swift execution of a would-be saboteur by Exarch Berrad and an accident involving a spirit bomb that left half the Empire's forces dead and the other half hell bent on revenge, open war between the defenders was thwarted only by the larger threat pressing in, coupled with Saebi's manta beheading several of the Bloodlochians that had violent intentions in mind.

The shadowspawn pushed forward, determined to sack Kald once and for all and, in the throes of countless arrows soaring forth from the high ground, the invasion of Kald began in earnest. Hundreds of monstrosities fell in the clamour as the combined efforts of Sapience stood their ground, more than ably supported by Aban's whirling shotel and Berrad's castigating mace, while Saebi cut down dozens effortlessly, letting none gain ground. Wave after wave after wave fell in the carnage, and still the shadowspawn continued swarming.

In the midst of the battle, the voice of Murgraxis pierced the din again, ordering the armies to withdraw and bellowing a command for Kolgrik, a lieutenant in Ohlsana's Swarm known as The Grindstone, to bring the battle to an end. Brief moments of respite allowed the militiamen to take a breath and regather their nerve, the roaring commands of their tutors keeping them in line.

From the mountains came a towering figure, a lumbering mass of muscle and raw strength shaking the earth with his every footstep. Kolgrik wore a look of cold malice, his intentions clear with every labouring motion made towards Kald. The three Exarchs, each limned in their own shining auras of resplendent light, closed ranks, standing shoulder to shoulder with each other. None among them spoke; only determined resolve and contemptuous familiarity yet lingered in their faces.

Kolgrik mirrored the Exarchs' silence, rocky protrusions bulging from his frame as he joined the battle. Eyeing the assembled soldiers with little more than dismissive scorn, the Golban man entered the fray and began to brawl. The chaos of the former battle seemed as peaceful tranquility with Kolgrik's arrival, the Lieutenant carving his way through the battlefield like a blur of unrepentant strength and manifest brutality. Utterly fearless and revelling in the violence, Kolgrik showed all the world how he had earned his moniker by cutting down everyone in his path like a knife through so much butter. Often he invoked the strategy of his namesake, gruesomely grasping people by the shoulders and dragging their faces along the ground for several paces.

The Golban man fought like a true brawler, eschewing all rules of engagement and fairness in favour of fully utilising the battlefield to his advantage. When he was surrounded, he fled, taking his poor victim with him; when others fled from him, he gave chase, unnaturally fast in spite of his lumbering size. The Exarchs lent their aid to the battle and gave chase of their own, striking countless blows and attempting to rally the adventurers to their side. Inexplicably enraged by Berrad in particular, the Shadow Lieutenant lifted the Exarch into the air and, calling on every ounce of his strength, hurled him into the sky. The Exarch, momentarily confused as he hurtled through the air and landed on Polyargos, soon regrouped, more determined than ever to take him out. The Exarch quickly found his way back to the melee, but under threat from Lord Rijetta Alhazrad, whose death tarot hung in the air mere moments away from claiming his life before he smote her down.

Finally, after claiming countless lives and fomenting untold chaos throughout the battlefield, the combined efforts of some sixty two adventurers overcame Kolgrik, whose weakened and broken form soon fell under the remorseless blows of Saebi's massive manta blade, adding new renown to the Ogress Exarch's already considerable fame. Kolgrik's collision with the ground send dust and debris billowing into the air, his body cracking cobbles and shattering pave stones. With his death, what little restraint was holding the shadowspawn at bay evaporated, and they swarmed eagerly to resume their conquest.

Avrax, Jermar, and Tomor roared orders to their militiamen yet again, and, the respite of success fading, the battle began anew. Hundreds of Ohlsana's soldiers poured into Kald, and as every wave fell, it seemed that five more were there to take their place. The militia's numbers shrunk, the number of arrows flying dwindled, and the resolve, that had held out for so long, endured through so much, began to falter. Still the shadow did not relent, pushing forward with still-growing hordes.

Confident in success, Murgraxis raised his voice again, this time to threaten Saebi, throwing taunts at her that Ael'mael would not save her, and promising that Kald, and she, would fall, just like the Holy City of Amlesh. Her warcry shook the ground in response, the Voice of the Dosan circle, typically reserved and, if not kindly, at least polite, roused to anger. Her blade swung with a mournful fury as she pushed harder, the aura of light surrounding her swelling to envelop all who remained on the field. Murgraxis took flight in response, descending toward the battlefield of Kald with a vow to finish the conflict personally.

Unseen until then, a cloaked peasant man limped through the square, his lumbering pace and awkward gait slowly propelling him toward the unfolding carnage. The chaos and horror of war erupted around this solitary figure, screams of death and suffering near-overwhelming in their magnitude as his sombre trudge through the bodies of the fallen took him ever closer to the frontlines. Click click. Click click. Onward he pressed, fixated on the interminable destruction, each new death and fresh scream etched further lines into his grim and stony visage.

Stumbling on a panicking peasant youth on his way, a weathered hand reached out as if by reflex, steadying the boy in a hold steadfast and true. The ragged traveller stepped past this defender of Kald and in his wake, the militiaman stood renewed, pawing at his once-wounds with numb and fumbling hands. Standing at last before foetid waves of rot and filth, misery and despair, the beggar man cast off the illusion of frailty and discarded his cloak without flair or fanfare, the gesture laden with a sense of weighty resolve.

A brilliant effulgence blossomed suddenly in the heart of Kald, a light so bright, so intense, that for the first moments of its dazzling revelation the gloam of midnight itself seemed to writhe in terror at its mere presence. The voice of the Unbound Lord rang out, crisp and clear, like the falling of hammers: "Too many have died here. Too much blood spilt. No more. The Shadow will not have this place. Not after all that has been given to defend it. I /will not/ allow it."

Damariel's typical kindly impassivity fell away as easily as the cloak he had cast aside, His fury coaxed to the unforgiving effulgence of the noonday sun magnified a thousandfold. He lifted a hand in a gesture of pure and utter denial, righteous indignation spilling forth in the form of celestial cataclysm made real. He turned His eyes on the invading shadowspawn.

And they started to die.

Lances of spirit exploded outwards from the great and terrible hurricane that was Damariel's merciless light, lightforged blades skewering whole swaths of shadowspawn in a single terrifying moment. Given pause by the cleansing destruction visited on his armies by Damariel's divine might, Murgraxis banked in mid flight, the combined luminescence of Exarch and Unbound God conspiring to turn back his advance. Still awash in pride and arrogance, Murgraxis condemned Damariel for His intervention, vowing that the eleven remaining Generals would come, and that He would regret wasting His strength on so irrelevant a place as Kald. The Shadow General returned to the Primal Eye, and Damariel's light continued to blaze bright, waves more shadowspawn expiring beneath the smiting hand of He Who Is Truth and Light.

Their will broken, what few of the Shadow's aberrations remained alive turned tail and fled. Yet even as they moved to escape, scouring flame rose up to meet them, enveloping the remnant filth in a fiery conflagration that burned them to ash where they stand. As the screams of the dying shadowspawn faded and cheers from the miraculously still-standing militia rose to take their place, the Unbound Lord turned His attention to the rot infesting Kald, and closed His eyes. Moved by all the suffering and pain around Him, the God's vengeance was swift and without mercy, spirit unfettered ripping away from Him like the break of dawn.

A gut-wrenching scream tore itself free from the heart of the filth, bubbling decay and tenebrous resistance yielding to the indomitable will of the light: the creeping taint in Kald was at last vanquished, excised from the war-torn village that it may yet regain some scarred semblance of former glory. Then, as smoke formed over Kald and the first pinpricks of dawn's light crept upward at horizon's edge, the Unbound Lord finally allowed His shoulders to sag in a moment of weary respite. He shared a brief exchange with the Exarchs before turning away, returning to Barre Arevat to rest.

Cheers followed in His wake, Jermar the Templar declaring victory for the dawn in unison with Enorian. Reaper Avrax lead the Carnifex in boisterous declarations of their own, the Keep swearing to elevate him to Eidolon for his performance here. Even Tomor, who had through both battles remained largely taciturn and quiet, could not hide his relief. He spoke loudly and with fervour on Defiance, expressing pride in the resistance and comparing them to Segaie, and the resolve she had when doing whatever she must to save the forests. Tomor saw the Severity of the Hunter in the unexpected, and unlikely resistance members, visiting immense praise on them for their refusal to break the line.

Countless more cheers followed, elation strong in the air. Insults flew at Murgraxis, and at Ohlsana Herself. And as the dust settled upon the battlefield of Kald, the rooster perched on the head of Holbrook Hought crowed loudly, announcing the break of dawn. Despite the odds, Kald and the people of Sapience had achieved the impossible. They had held the line. For now.

Penned by my hand on Quensday, the 14th of Ios, in the year 504 MA.
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