8/23/2022 at 14:27
The Second War of Night, Part XIX: The Lost Woods
The fall of General Agrimarha only strengthened the Shadow's resolve, and the unexpected arrival of countless shadowbound dragonlings proved a highly potent expansion to the Generals' arsenals. While Murgraxis maintained his lone vigil at the heart of the Primal Eye, the others were anything but idle. Each day that passed, the dark star blotting out the noonday sun grew, Irgech's implacable, unabated work now encompassing the early afternoon in its lightless shade.
Incursions into the city states became more frequent and more deadly with the inclusion of dragonlings among the darkspawn ranks, the winged creatures laying waste to everything in their path. Guards and troops fell by the dozen with every questing advance and, though the Spireans had rapidly engineered enormous ballistae in order to shoot down the dragonlings, mobilisation proved difficult, and Murgraxis' spawn did plenty of damage even in the short time they were allowed to roam.
Shadowbound soldiers were discovered in the Pash Valley and the Dry Plains, attempting to forcibly infect the locale with rot. Similar divisions went unseen by the adventurers for a full week, and a foothold of shadowrot began to spread from the Western Itzatl and elsewhere. The Generals, emboldened by their tests of the cities' ground defences, began testing their own personal might against the city walls, while the northern front endured yet another clash of armies.
Fell sorcery gathered in the camp of Isalemei, the corrupted Djinn, filaments and traceries of all-consuming blackfire leaping skyward at the General's behest to hang poised on high with deadly intent. As the enchanted projectiles surged toward the City of Enorian, they found their path obscured by rapidly forming clouds of cerulean vapour, the fractious power of the Maelstrom manifesting as a sky-bound whirlpool to drown the General's dark magic and wash it harmlessly away.
At the same time, the thrum of countless wings heralded the descent of a midnight swarm upon the city of Spinesreach, dragonlings beyond counting darkening the skies above the Citadel spires. With a derisive snort, Sky Dreaming stirred lazily from Her lofty perch, canting her head to cast a disdainful glare upon those who would sully Her domain. Pride's great maw gaped wide, arcs of incandescent lightning fracturing across the skies to incinerate Shadow's dragonlings by the dozen. Akin to burning leaves, the bodies of the lesser wyrms spiralled to the earth below, crackling trails of azurine sparks left in their wake.
Waves of shadowspawn broke themselves on the steadfast Tarean lines, falling to regroup at the Eye, yet any claim of victory seemed a pyrrhic one, for in the distance, far beyond the limits of the Tarean Mountains, the footfall of armies mustering under the Shadow's banner shook the earth with ominous portent, their intended target unclear. Tremors wracked the ground with the passage of myriad shadowspawn across the world, sent forth from the Generals' commandposts to march with deadly intent.
Alerted to an imminent attack by dint of enhanced telepathy and in the latter case, the shadow marks, the Sentaari and Sciomancers sounded the alarm, and dozens spread out to look for the oncoming armies, to practically no avail. Frenzied hissing and sibilant warcries resonated from the heart of the Dakhota Hills as the spawn's paths intersected, three disparate armies becoming one horrific host.
Infused with bloodlust, the host turned southwest and pressed forward into the Vashnar range, their heavy steps disrupting shale and stone in a cascade of jagged shards and crumbling rock. Within minutes, streaks of black daubed the skies over the Bloodwood in a bruise-like stain, the beginnings of shadowrot bubbling at its heart as the encroaching Shadow began to stake a claim. Into the forest poured masses of shadowspawn, determined to wrest the sickened woodland into the Shadow Mother's grasp.
Calamitous battle ensued for almost half a day, some forty adventurers throwing all they had against dozens, nay hundreds of rampaging shadowspawn. Grey-black fire scorched the skies with the dragonlings' aerial assaults. The roaring of shadow beasts left terror and insanity in their wake. Death claimed all who dared step onto the battlefield, and it seemed Ohlsana had committed overwhelming force to this particular front.
Amidst the scores of deaths, the desperate fighting, and confused debates on the optimal strategy, the adventurers at last seemed to gain some ground. But then the earth shook again, splitting open as a massive shadowworm erupted from below, thrashing violently as it entered the fray. From its maw spilled noxious vomit and filthy slime, spewing yet more darkspawn onto the field.
Though the adventurers rallied, they continued to die in droves. Meanwhile, at the very heart of the Bloodwood, the converging shadowspawn turned their wills against the sickened forest, seeking to wrench open a new foothold for Ohlsana's enveloping rot. Still Sapience's resolve did not break, and the disparate group, counting members of all four city states among its numbers, regrouped again and again. Though their foe was formidable and deadly, the shadowworm fell to the combined strength of Sapience, but its death was no causes for celebration.
Its belly split apart as it died, waves of disgusting slime and filth spraying forth from within. In the distance, the revelling of shadowspawn hordes sounded out with raucous jeers and spiteful celebrations, fresh patches of foetid rot now devouring the Bloodwood's heart. Though the Sciomancers and their numerous supporters hastened to create shadowbreaks to prevent its spread into the Vashnars, the battle's result was clear: the Bloodwood was lost.
Penned by my hand on Tisday, the 7th of Lleian, in the year 504 MA.