Events post #325: The Second War of Night, Part XVIII: Strife Rises, Misery Falls

8/21/2022 at 3:45
The Second War of Night, Part XVIII: Strife Rises, Misery Falls

Attacks on the cities continued apace and, whether by coincidental timing or direct response to the Sciomancer's innovative method of repelling the rot, a legion of shadowbound soldiers sashayed forth from Mazgal and Telorach's commandpost, holding a position near the gates of Spinesreach while attempting to actively spread more of the rot themselves. Though they were dispatched by Spirean hoplites, Sapience remains on high alert in case of further machinations by Ohlsana's soldiers.

Halfway through Midsummer, the Primal Eye once more stirred with violet incandescence, the forces of Shadow rousing themselves for another incursion into the Tareas. As the black wave of shadowspawn poured down the mountainside, similar incursions sprung up in Duiran, Spinesreach, and Enorian, the four-pronged assault taking many by surprise. Across Sapience, the Generals bellowed commands to their armies and legions on all sides pushed forward. Massive disturbances in the earth shook the Tarean Mountains while Murgraxis boomed out boasts and jeers, demanding the surrender of Sapience in service to the Immortal Dark.

While the cities strove to repel the invaders and the Sanguine Fist sent their troops to meet the northern horde, great worms exploded from the ground, slithering across the battlefield and vomiting up countless more shadowspawn aberrations with their passage. Amidst the clamour of battle and chaos of war, Bamathis, the Warlord, commanded the Argent Legion to stay back from the front, instead mustering them to meet Him at the gates of the Carnifex's Shadow Keep. Commander Mjoll and Herald Whirran hurried to His side, and He informed them of His intent for them to push forward into the Eye. Bathed in the essence of strife, they eagerly awaited the Warlord's command while Bamathis Himself surveyed the field, waiting for the opportune moment.

Unnoticed amidst the chaos, a subtle ripple disturbed the shadows blanketing the Primal Eye. The web of caliginous darkness shielding once-Sterion's black heart flickered but held fast, an ephemeral, momentary convulsion allowing passage to One both swift and unseen. While the Shadowbound Dragon fixed his gaze on the mountain range below, a veiled silhouette silently coalesced behind him, the enveloping eventide contorting to reveal the bovine form of the Manipulator. Sensing opportunity, Severn glided forward without a sound, His hulking frame at odds with His subtle, circumspect gait. Voices rang out across Sapience, chief among them that of Lord Rijetta Alhazrad, each hurling insults and invectives at Murgraxis to distract him from the Minotaur God's gambit. Though Murgraxis' ego kept his attention drawn elsewhere, the manifold voices raised the suspicions of his companion.

In a single motion, Severn drew a sidereal, split-blade sword of spirit and lunged in a blur of divinely-enhanced speed, black tendrils writhing about the length and breadth of the blade as He struck, aiming for the distracted Dragon's neck. A scream of sundered metal broke the clandestine incursion, the split-blade sword seeming to shatter in the Artificer's hands as He found His blow turned aside, stymied by the weapon of General Agrimarha. Misery's Adherent spared no time to gloat, already bringing her palms together to form a globe of raw magic which careened toward Severn. The Artificer turned on His heel and vanished, only to reappear behind Murgraxis with a longsword of warring essences in His hand. The sphere of magic detonated in a blinding flash and Murgraxis wheeled around to sneer at the Shadowed God, black fire kindling between his jaws. Strands of sickly grey essence formed in the Adherent's upthrust palms, and the two Generals pressed forward, resolved to claim victory over the intruder.

Bamathis, choosing the moment carefully, commanded the Legion to push forward into the Eye, instructing them to hold the line as He went on ahead. The strident notes of a herald's trumpet sounded out as a signal of the Argent Legion's advanced, and Mjoll and Whirran bravely marched in, rampaging hordes of shadowspawn seeking to stymie their advance. Empowered by the Warlord's might, Whirran's trumpet wreaked ruin upon the shadowspawn while Mjoll, indefatigable and stalwart as ever, cut a path through toward the heart of the Primal Eye.

Torrents of noisome filth spewed from the grotesque maw of Murgraxis toward the Manipulator, roiling plumes of viscous rot soon joined by twin arcs of black fire and blacklit puissance from Adherent Agrimarha who directed her synchronous weaves with the skill and speed of a veteran soldier. Severn feinted, His longsword shattering in myriad fragments as it strained to deflect the assault. In a flurry of footwork and fading translucence, He dodged and wove between the combined attacks, fingers twitching in His now empty hands as He whispered to the surroundings. In moments, dozens of inky black threads streaked forth from Him to ensnare the Adherent in a tenebrous trap, yet it barely slowed her advance.

Tooth and claw worked as one for Murgraxis, each shift of his massive bulk sundering the ground as his spiked tail swung in a broad arc, cleaving the air as he aimed it toward the Minotaur God. Showing no hint of either strain or struggle, Agrimarha calmly shrugged off her bindings and gathered grey-black balefire to her fingertips. As the Dragon's tail neared its quarry, the Adherent turned loose the blinding bar of shadowflame, reality screaming in protest with its traversal in Severn's direction. Umbrael flared to life around the Artificer then, the instrument of His greatest work striving to shield Him from the deadly attack. The Cloak of Midnight, revered and feared alike, hungrily devoured the Adherent's balefire, absorbing it in full before expelling it outwards in a cataclysm of unleashed energy, lashing viciously at Murgraxis in a furore of potent strikes.

When the smoke parted, the unmistakeable silhouette of Severn emerged: alone, unharmed, and wielding a sensuous sword of ophidian predilection. Taking advantage of the momentary confusion, He hurled the weapon at Murgraxis, the blade transforming into the elongated body of a giant serpent, ruby eyes alight with hunger as it struck home, eliciting a howl of rage from the Dragon.

As Mjoll and Whirran cut through hordes of shadowspawn, more and more swarmed about them. Each time they fell in battle, Strife saw to their revival, restoring them to life with renewed vigour and strength to press forward. Trumpet blasts piped out from Whirran and Mjoll became an unconquerable wall, wave after wave of aberrations breaking themselves on her strength. Bamathis pushed further into once-Sterion, His armoured form lit from without by a brilliantine aura of palpable strife. Still reeling from Severn's counterattack, Agrimarha slashed a single hand through the air and formed an angular gateway. Barely bothering to spare a glance for Murgraxis's safety, she stepped through the portal to confront the Warlord, the two Ankyreans - one corrupted, the other deified - regarding each other with similar looks of resolved disdain.

Bamathis struck first, driving Caelestis forward in sparks of brightly burning silver, His expert footwork and military training giving Him the opening advantage. Adherent's mortalfire surrounded Agrimarha, but the Warlord clove through its protection with ease, shearing away the shield like a scythe through chaff. As their battle began in earnest, shadowbound hordes swarmed in defence of the Generals, but before they could assemble in the correct formation, the Herald's trumpet cut through their caterwauling, drawing the armies to the Argent Legion's side.

The Warlord pressed His advantage, the essence of discord and war entwining with Caelestis for a decisive blow. Agrimarha braced herself for the impact, weaving an oily barrier of black taint that slithered into place to meet Strife's blade. Though wounded, the Ankyrean General survived, and Bamathis, taken by surprise, found Himself thrown off balance. Wasting no time, Agrimarha transformed, becoming the Avatar of Misery. Searing power flowed through her, her eyes but a pair of black spheres utterly void of any light. Ephemeral blades formed in her grasp and she sprung forward at Bamathis, attempting to sever His arm and bring the conflict to a swift end.

Enraged, Murgraxis redoubled the assault on Severn, who now held a silver-mithril broadsword of Artifice. A knowing smirk decorated His mouth in response to the Dragon's ire, and He gathered all His strength, all His power, and all His spite, turning it on Murgraxis in an effort to bend his will to the God's own. Grating laughter and mocking jeers followed from Murgraxis, diving for the Artificer again and sundering His latest weapon in a tumultuous mania of rending talons and slashing claws. Shouting his outrage for all to hear, the Dragon declared his loyalty to the Immortal Dark, promising that Severn's will would soon break.

Strife turned aside Misery's ethereal blades, retaliating against the barrage with an onslaught of His own. A bevy of silver-limned arrows hovered in the air about Him, and as He stepped forward to resume His attack, each flew ahead with deadly intent. The General slashed open another dull gateway, bringing forth a horde of shadow beasts to shield her from Bamathis' murderous volley. Harrowing squalls tinged the air as the projectiles pierced umbral flesh and sable bone, the beasts turning on the Warlord with unconstrained violence in their eyes.

Argent fire surrounded Bamathis in a searing penumbra of discordant flames, incinerating the oncoming horde until naught remained of them but smouldering ashes. Caelestis swung again and again, landing a slew of empowered blows and cutting into the Adherent without mercy. In the distance, the repeated deaths of His Herald and Rereti turned the eyes of shadowbound soldiers in the Warlord's direction, and His voice boomed out in warning, urging them to hold the line. His voice falling silent, fronds of iridescent silver banished the umbral shade clouding the Primal Eye, the Warlord spending yet more of His strength to engender Whirran's rebirth: the Azudim Ogre rising again as an Adherent of Strife. Renewed, the Argent Legionnaires steeled themselves and held their position, refusing to give any ground.

Ignoring all else but His battle with Murgraxis, Severn abandoned His efforts to dominate the Dragon and disappeared, reforming on the opposite side of the Eye. With a look of displeasure He held aloft a spirit-misted flyssa, living gloam propelling Him forward and upward into a daring strike against the General's heart. Blade met Dragonscale and scarcely grazed Murgraxis, whose deafening bellow left the Manipulator stunned. Repositioning his massive draconic body, he split wide his jaws for a second time, belching a storm of plagued breath, cascading waves of grey filth flaying Severn's flesh where He stood.

Black fire mended General Agrimarha's wounds and she recovered, desperately attempting to both weather the Warlord's assault and erode His defensive position. The corrupted Adherent turned everything she had on Bamathis, drawing in the essence of misery to shape withering magic and calamitous spell, weave after weave hurled like spectral daggers toward the Ankyrean-made-God. But no matter her effort, Agrimarha failed to break the Warlord's guard and the hilt of Caelestis, swift and unseen in its search for ruin, struck her soundly in the chin. A gasp of fear and shock escaped her lips and Bamathis, sensing victory, kicked her to the ground. Looming over her, the Warlord called for His Herald to join Him and help bring the duel to an end.

Flickering in and out of focus with the impossible speed and veteran skill of ancient divinity, the Manipulator navigated the battlefield like a deadly spectre, His form dissipating with each powerful swing before He reappeared elsewhere, every blow landing with calculated precision as He drove Murgraxis towards an invisible goal. Each apparition brought with it a new weapon, the last, an acicular kagamine rapier fitted with a daedal guard, cast aside as He dispersed to naught but void-like smoke time after time, masterful control evinced even by His feints and parries.

Laying prone before the Warlord, Agrimarha panted in exhaustion, black blood seeping from her countless open wounds. While Mjoll battled the hordes alone, Herald Whirran's trumpet blasted out another tremulous note. The General flinched, stunned and weak, and the Ogre stepped forward to restrain her. Bamathis drew back Caelestis and, with neither reluctance nor hesitation, ran both the General and His own Herald through the heart, calling out a callous "Welcome to Sapience" as He struck the final blow.

Fallen Sterion trembled under the indignant roar of Murgraxis, the Adherent's fall inciting him to even greater, more terrible fury. Artifice fell away like a silken drape as the Manipulator's calculated attacks reached their final denouement, revealing the self-same sidereal, split-blade sword of spirit thought shattered in the first exchange. Suspended in the air before the distracted General's chest, the weapon illuminated a sneer of smug certainty across Severn's face as He raised His hand and clenched His fist. Instantly the blade came alive with raw spirit, a beam of lucent light searing open wounds in the General's otherwise impenetrable armour. Howling with untold agony, the Blade of Artifice fell from the Dragon's grasp as Murgraxis wrenched himself free of the spirit-infused weapon, leathery wing and monstrously powerful pinion splayed as he circles in low flight above the Primal Eye.

Flush with the thrill of recent triumph, Bamathis manifested at Severn's side, the Warlord and His Spymaster readying Themselves to meet the vengeance of Murgraxis wheeling overhead. The Manipulator heaved a qufar inlaid spear of tungsten and silver at the Dragon but it went wide as the great wyrm banked, his booming rage rolling like thunder in the low-lying clouds. Dictating words in the Shadow tongue, Murgraxis named Severn thief and liar, vowing that Czjetija's attacks would continue as he called for the aid of his brood. The thunderous roar of the Shadow Lord resounded across the firmament again, but it was not alone. At the core of the Primal Eye, the breach trembled, wrenching open a great gaping wound in Creation. Black wings unfurled in the cold, first one, then dozens, then hundreds of shadowbound dragonlings pouring forth to lend darkened breath and lightless flame to their embattled sire.

Bamathis ordered the Legion to fall back, Mjoll and Whirran departing the Primal Eye exhausted but alive, having held the line long enough for Strife to prevail over Misery. The Warlord and Spymaster shared a look of momentary trepidation, the sky above blotted out by the flapping wings of the Shadow's corrupt dragonflight. Before the swarm could muster an attack, Severn retrieved the fallen Blade of Artifice and the two Gods took Their leave from the battlefield, satisfied with their triumph and resolved to fight another day.

Enraged at the demise of the Adherent of Misery, the forces of Shadow seethed forward in a last push, determined to avenge the fallen General and break through Bloodloch's line, the invasions into Enorian, Duiran, Spinesreach turned back by bell, pylon, totem, and sheer strength and valour. Rockslides poured throughout the mountains as several abominations roared through the earth, intertwining paths bringing each erupting onto the battlefield with fury. They too fell before the enhanced soldiers and combined will of the Empire. Then, as the battlefield quieted and the dust settled, the earth stilled, the clamour of war drawing to a close.

Penned by my hand on Kinsday, the 17th of Midsummer, in the year 504 MA.
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