|War in the West|
Tytos Korlath seethed with rage. His bastard son had failed him again, it was expected, but it didn't make him any less angry. His son stood across from him, head bent, face emotionless as always.
"Idiot, you knew they had the girl there!" Tytos shouted.
"Yes I did father. I would have found her, but as I told you the dragon drove me off. Forty-seven of us were killed." Drake said.
"These damn unarmed villagers survived attacks from that dragon and its children, you were better prepared and you still failed!" Drake moved to speak but his father shouted over him.
"When I take the west I'll burn that damn village to the ground to show you how easy it would've been. You are weak." Drake recoiled at the last statement.
"If you wish me to go back there father..." Drake began.
"No! I'm not willing to give you more men to lose. I have a better task for you. You are to travel to the remnants of House Styrke, east of here, find that dragon and kill him yourself." Drake paled at this.
"Our arrows were useless against it, how can you think I alone would be able to kill that behemoth?"
"I don't." His father sneered. "But you will go just the same. Leave at once." Drake bowed and walked out of the room.
The king called for his advisor, who came slinking into the room.
"How goes our conquest?" The king asked.
"Slowly but surely we push into western territory. We move unobstructed into the east, but some generals assure me that's a wasp's hive just waiting to explode. Perhaps we should postpone further advancement?" Korlath looked at him with disgust, and that was all the answer the advisor needed, he left the room.
Drake saddled his stallion, and another with supplies. His father wanted him to go to his death, but his father had a greater situation on his hands than he could've realized. Drake looked at his map of Emiria, Deathbringer's citadel to the east. He marked a route with a good quill, and then set off.
He headed north.
The foot soldier thrust his spear at Esmond, who dodged it with ease. Another thrust grazed his leg, opening a bleeding gash. The next spear thrust was aimed at Esmond's throat, but this time he parried it with his sword. Throwing the soldier off timing, he brought his sword down on the soldiers shoulder, pulled it out, then speared the man through the stomach. Esmond looked up just in time to see a knight riding towards him with a great war axe swinging above his head. He caught Esmond in the chest and knocked him to the ground, but didn't cause any serious damage other than making a large dent in his chest armor and knocking his sword away.
Esmond rolled out of the way just in time as the knight's horse rode past, nearly trampling him. Esmond groaned and rose slowly, looking on the ground beside him he saw the fallen foot soldier's spear. He picked it up took aim as the knight was making another round, he tossed it...
Success! The spear stuck in the horse, causing it to fall to the ground, nearly falling on the rider. While the knight recovered, Esmond found his sword and charged at the knight, who was unarmed. The knight fell to his knees.
"I yield." He said. Esmond looked up to see the remnants of the southern forces retreating. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Esmond guided the Knight back to camp at the point of his sword. Once they reached the camp the knight was seized by some other soldiers taking count of prisoners, and Esmond was free to retire to his quarters, but he didn't right away. He found a couple of his fellow swordsmen and sat down with them around a fire to have some mead and tell tales of the battle.
"And this man 'ere, thinking he's the one to end the war rushes towards me swinging away. Well I knock his damn sword right out o' his hand! I tell 'im, you ain't gonna be the one to kill me, boy, and he just whimpers!" The men around the campfire including Esmond all laughed. The man that had just told the story turned to Esmond.
"How 'bout you Esmond? You got any tales."
"None as good as yours, Arthur." Esmond replied back. He then excused himself and made his way to the command tent. Esmond was childhood friends with Lyon, the man leading their ragged defending force, so he entered the tent uninvited to find Lyon leaning over a map. Lyon was only a year older than Esmond but the war had taken its toll on him and he looked tired and 10 years older than he was. He was balding, had many creases on his face and wore a black faded cloak with the tower of House Malyion on the back. He looked up and smiled half-heartedly when Esmond strode in.
"How goes it." Esmond said, motioning to the map. Lyon sighed.
"We're being reassigned to another part of the border as reinforcements. The high lords think that's where Korlath will make his push." He said while tapping on a part of the western border. Esmond nodded.
"That's for another day Lyon. Come, drink with us." Lyon reluctantly left the command tent.
Passing the southern border was easy for Drake. All he had to tell the guards was that he was on his father's business and they easily let him past. Getting past the western border guard was going to be harder, though. Drake stopped in the small town of Stonewall for the night. No one knew who he was, but a few looked twice at him. It was strange in Stonewall to see someone with such pale skin, or wearing armor. Even at the outbreak of the war, Stonewall had not seen many soldiers or evidence that there was, in fact, a war taking place. Drake rode up to the local inn and paid a stableboy generously to see to his horses and walked into the inn. The innkeeper gave him a queer look, but took Drake's coin nonetheless and gave him directions to find his room.
Drake glanced around the room, gazing at the drunks and merrymakers that were about. His eyes met with a man's who had white hair, a scraggly beard and a large physique. Drake guessed him to be around the age of sixty, but a man who had not let his body go to waste. The man stood up and the room went quiet.
"Ain't you the bastard o' that stinking king, Korlath?" The man shouted, obviously half-drunk.
"I fear you have me mistaken me for someone else." Drake replied coldly.
"There ain't no mistakin' it!" The man shouted, working himself into a rage. "My three sons died at the word of your damn father, off to war they went, war for what? This ain't never been my war!" The man spat. The amount of angry muttering and faces in the room surprised Drake as he looked around. If he turned to walk away now, he would not leave without being accosted.
Drake drew his swords.
"So that's the way you wanna play it, eh bastard? I'm drunk as a dog and I'll still cut you in two." The angry patron said, drawing his sword from its scabbard. The innkeeper, now nervous that his inn would suddenly turn into a bloodbath, tried to persuade the two opponents from clashing.
"Please milords, not here! If you must do this thing, do it outside! Or I swear I'll send for the city guard!" But it was too late, and the angry patron charged, it was all the innkeeper could do to get out of the way. Drake met his attacker's sword with his own two, breaking away in a parry. The man was stronger but Drake was faster. The man came down in a heavy overhead slice but Drake jumped out of the way. Again the man swung and again Drake got out of the way just in time, always just so close as to encourage his attacker to attack again quickly and wildly. Drake kept dodging the cuts and slices until the man began to pant.
Then Drake moved onto the attack.
He drove the man backwards towards the tables at the end of the bar, slicing every which way with his two swords. The man was two tired and Drake scored numerous hits on him, finally imparting a blade into the man's chest.
As his former opponent bled out on the floor, Drake sheathed his swords and made for the door unobstructed. He grabbed his horses from a confused stableboy and began to ride towards the edges of the town. Somehow he got out of the town without someone so much as looking in his direction. Finding this strange he looked to the sky only to see a dragon swooping overhead. Not the same dragon he had faced, not even the same coloration. This dragon was black and purple, and seemed to come out of the night itself. It flew over Drake's head towards the direction he had come from.
Returning to its master.
Rho-nygg was far from the cave he called home, he was in deep southern territory, he had heard many rumors on the whispering of the wind lately and he needed to know things for himself. After all, he prided himself on his knowledge, if nothing else. He had been brought tales of human conflict over the vast expanse of Emiria, Rho-nygg knew better than to trifle himself with the matters of man, but it was still something to know and think on. Even more disturbing were the reports of a dragon from the deep south, one who hated mankind and dragonkind equally and killed for pleasure. The news that had brought him out to investigate for himself though was the news of a great weyr being formed around that particularly evil dragon. A weyr of the much-hated Shadowlings.
Rho-nygg had left his cave to investigate these matters. Rho-nygg's philosophy had always been that dragons should not interfere in the affairs of mortal beings, a philosophy not many dragons shared. Smaller things were easier for Rho-nygg to ignore, but he had heard tales that this malevolent dragon, this so called Deathbringer, meant to conquer all of Emiria. Rho-nygg wanted to confront the dragon of its intentions himself, that way he could determine whether to send out a plea for other dragons and their weyrs to intervene.
In the distance he could make out two black shapes flying towards him. Shadowlings. Rho-nygg slowed his flight to conserve energy for the coming fight. Shadowlings were notorious for being the kind of dragon to breathe fire first, and not ask question at all.
Soon enough the two Shadowlings came upon the place where Rho-nygg was, they immediately set upon him with their dark fire. Rho-nygg dodged the initial blasts and responded with fire of his own, which seemed to throw the Shadowlings off guard but not damage them. They came swooping down, releasing gouts of fire that hit Rho-nygg who suffered minimal damage due to his magical aura surrounding him, however it did take a toll on his stamina. He would not be able to keep the barrier up at this rate. He took advantage of the Shadowlings' confusion of the fact that he still lived and slammed his claw into the soft underbelly of one of them, causing blood to spray out. The Shadowling recovered with a few physical attacks of its own, slamming Rho-nygg's head with its claws repeatedly. The Shadowling broke free of Rho-nygg's grasp and reared up to breathe a tide of flame at Rho-nygg.
It was too late and the Shadowling had fallen for Rho-nygg's trap. He breathed as much fire as he could into the soft belly of the Shadowling and watched as its burning carcass fell out of the sky to the ground with a sickening crunch audible even at Rho-nygg's height. He turned to the other Shadowling who smashed into Rho-nygg with his full force, knocking Rho-nygg out of the sky as the second Shadowling flew back the way he came. Rho-nygg recovered flight before hitting the ground and he flew over to a nearby hill where he tended to his wounds.
It wasn't until dark that Rho-nygg saw more shapes approaching from the darkness. He could do nothing but wait for them to arrive. It was Deathbringer himself that appeared then, by his side was a smaller green version of the dragon. They were flocked by five Shadowlings. Rho-nygg sat up and addressed them.
"I have heard tales you mean to conquer Emiria. I have come to find out if these are just tales or if they are true. I cannot allow you to meddle so greatly in the affairs of--" Deathbringer cut him off with a single word.
"SILENCE!" He roared.
"YOU ARE A SMALL, WEAK DRAGON. HOW DARE YOU THINK OF THREATENING ME?" Rho-nygg looked at the dragon carefully. He could not possibly defeat Deathbringer, his child, and the five Shadowlings. Rho-nygg hoped Deathbringer's arrogance was his weakness.
"If you are so confident in your abilities, how about a duel then?" Rho-nygg replied calmly. Deathbringer roared with laughter.
"VERY WELL, I WILL CRUSH THE LIFE FROM YOUR BONES!" He yelled, and swooped at Rho-nygg, who just barely avoided the claws of his opponent. Deathbringer wasted no time in rising up again to attack for a second round, breathing fire straight at Rho-nygg who caught it straight on. His magic aura dissipated completely. Rho-nygg tried to breathe fire, tried to move, anything to no avail.
For the first time in his life, Rho-nygg greatly regretted a decision he had made.
Deathbringer came on him in full force, smashing him into the ground.
And all was black.
The army marched efficiently, but still slower than its counterparts moving from other deployments along and inside the western border. Their ragged force of 500 had stopped the night before in sight of the larger army, and then marched towards them the next day so they arrived early in the morning to group up with the other remnants and the commanders could discuss battle plans.
Esmond had never seen so many soldiers in one place at once. He guessed there were 3,000 soldiers in all. He hoped Korlath had less, but there was no way of knowing how many men sat in the army encamped across the border, and the hope wasn't very realistic anyway. Esmond spent the rest of the day helping to set up tents, gambling, and drinking. He went to bed early, as many of the soldiers did.
He was awoken by a wake-up trumpet blaring outside his tent. The soldiers woke up, many with pale complexions. Esmond had been in three battles in the war so far so he wasn't as scared as some of them are. Still, it took a fool not to be unnerved by the possibility of death. He met up with his section of the attacking force, and they marched on the southern army across the border. Battle was met and cries of glory were announced from both sides. Esmond had killed his first man when a shadow fell over him, and men looked to the skies.
Black and purple dragons were swooping down on the armies, smashing them completely. Black fire came hurtling down at the men on the ground, incinerating some completely. The feeble attacks against the dragons had no effect on them. Esmond turned to run from the chaos and came face-to-face with one of the dragons himself.
The dragon reared up, and let loose a storm of fire.
Korlath, once again, was in his personal living room. He had been brought mixed reports of the large battle that had just taken place. Some said black magic, some said dragons, some even had the gall to say that the southern army were completely devastated by the western army. His advisor knocked on the door and Korlath gruffly told him to come in. The advisor bowed.
"Your Grace, multiple reports seem to confirm it was dragons that destroyed the armies. A great horde the size of which has never been seen before in Emiria." Dragons! Those had seemed to throw a small wrench in his plans as of late.
"These damn beasts have appeared more than once to meddle in my affairs!" Tytos said. The advisor moved to speak but Tytos talked over him.
"No matter. We have already set a plan in motion that will cripple the west irreversibly, a plan that cannot be foiled by dragons! Still... these frequent attacks are becoming a small annoyance. Send out a royal decree." The advisor grabbed some parchment and a quill and began to take down what the king said.
"Henceforth anyone with knowledge on how to defeat these dragons will report to the nearest southern military establishment, or the nearest lord. They will relate their knowledge on these matters in return for riches. Under certain circumstances, they may even be granted an audience with the king. Send that all across the south and make sure it makes its way into eastern and western territory as well." The advisor bowed and left the room. Korlath sat back and contemplated this new development in the war. Perhaps he could strike a deal with these dragons, if there was no way to defeat them. And if that proved impossible, then Neannu save them all.
Drake knew he was far too late when he witnessed the burnt field, strewn with bodies. Thousands dead, the few left alive were mostly mad. "Dragons!" One man shouted over and over as he ran past Drake although he could see the obvious. It was dusk and the sun blazed low in the sky, he had to find shelter for the night. He noticed a fire burning further down the field, to small to be a dragon's blaze. He rode towards it.
When he came on the encampment he saw two men and one woman sitting on makeshift benches surrounding the bonfire. One man stood up and challenged Drake as he rode through the shadows.
"Who goes there?" The man said. He had a western accent. Drake considered for a moment and then felt it would be best if he didn't use his real name.
"A traveller with food and supplies, may I enter?" The man sighed and beckoned Drake forward. Now in better light Drake saw that the man he had spoken to was quite young and had a large scar across his face with a cloth wrapped around his head where his left eye was. The other man sitting on the bench was an older man with long brown hair and a tired look on his face. The women was obviously southern in nature and had short blonde hair and an open wound on her leg, all three were filthy and stank of death.
"Your names?" Drake asked as he unsaddled his horses and got out provisions for himself and the others.
"John." The man who had greeted him said.
"Lora." The women said through clenched teeth. The older man on the bench just laughed.
"What should my name mean to you, traveller?" He asked.
"It doesn't mean anything. Just courtesy." Drake had much experience dealing with the ignorant, and this man didn't bother him the slightest. The older man laughed again.
"The name's Garn, traveller." Garn laughed a deep throaty laugh which turned into a cough. John came over and sat down on the bench while Drake passed around some food.
"Were you here when the dragons attacked?" John asked.
Drake replied simply with "No" and braced himself for the stories to come.
"I was damned lucky. We all were." John continued. "I lost my left eye when one of them swooped overhead and almost took me in its claws. It only scratched my face thanks to someone who pushed me out of the way. I would've lost my head." The women Lora, yelped in pain and Garn glanced over at Drake.
"It was a slaughter alright, but she didn't get that from no dragon." Garn said, pointing to Lora's leg.
"Do you got any supplies that'll help her, traveller? He asked. Drake glanced at Lora's wound and knew she was already dead. His supplies might prolong her life, but not by much.
"No." He replied.
"Odd for a traveller to be travellin' without any healing supplies." Garn's eyes met Drake's and the message was clear. You give, or we take.
"Odd for a soldier to be faking educated speech. You slur your words on purpose, and poorly too." Drake replied. "Who are you?"
"No one that would matter to you, Black Prince." Drake cursed, he knew it must be either the armor or his complexion that made him so easily identifiable.
"She will die in three days, maybe five with my supplies. It makes no matter." Drake said.
"It matters to me dammit!" John spoke for the first time in a while, and he was quite angry.
"Now calm down boy." Garn said calmly. "This dog's bark is worse than his bite." He said while motioning to Drake. "What brings you here prince?" Garn asked, a half-sneer on his face.
"I hoped to reach the west with word of the threat of dragons before something like this happened." John was suddenly calm again.
"So you've seen 'em?" He said
"I've seen the leader of them." Then he turned to Garn. "You must be a lord, however minor. Do you have anyone back in the west that would accept me and carry my word to the king?" Garn laughed again and said
"You're looking at most of them." As he pointed to the dead bodies strewn across the field. "But I'll see what I can do. However we are coming with you."
"That won't be necessary."
"It will." Now Drake was getting angry.
"You can come, 'Garn', but John stays behind. He'll only slow us down."
"Wrong again, prince. All three of us are coming, you will be giving your supplies to Lora, and we will leave at first dawn." Drake groaned and resigned himself to his fate.
Sven walked through the halls Sky Fort, his shoes lightly clicking over the stones that lined the ground. He wore an ornamental cloak emblazoned with black, gold, and red. Sheathed in his belt was a jewel-encrusted sword that had been very expensive to have made. But, after all, he had to look the part he was supposed to be. The greater lords barely acknowledged him in the hall as they passed, perhaps wondering where one as unimportant as him had found the wealth to decorate himself so finely.
Sven was a westerner, born and raised, he sported a finely kept wisp of a mustache and kept his hair combed back, straight, and short, much to the dismay of the greater lords. He currently was looking for his designated room in the Sky Fort but could not find it. When he finally put his pride aside and asked for directions, he found himself very late for his important meeting. Guided back to his room he entered to find a bag of gold on the table and note beside it. It read "More to be delivered upon completion of task." Sven smiled to himself. He had not become rich by being a lesser lord who kept nothing for himself. He was quite skilled at the job he did, and was rewarded in kind for it. This was a large assignment, and the pay would be very large indeed upon completion.
Not one, but two people had claimed knowledge of the dragons that had destroyed Korlath's forces on the battlefields to the north-west. One of these was Drabardi Sagar, a fortune teller of a sort who had lived at House Styrke prior to its destruction. The other was a man named Eldred, one who had been a minister at House Styrke and was the last of the Order of Dragonslayer Knights. Korlath now sat questioned them, seated upon his throne.
"Your knowledge of these creatures, I am told, is expansive. Answer a few questions for me and you will be free to leave with your gold." Tytos told them.
The fortune teller spoke up first.
"These are not mere dragons you are dealing with, these are Shadowlings. Some of the most ruthless dragons ever to live." She cackled.
"Than how about you tell me more about them. And you will address me with Your Grace, or Your Highness when speaking to me." Korlath said coldly.
"Your Grace these dragons are like none other. They breathe dark fire which can melt the very scales off of a lesser dragon. They are merciless and cold hearted and only follow their Shadowlord." The former minister broke in.
"Deathbringer, Your Highness."
"Of course, it all keeps coming back to that damned dragon, one way or another." Tytos growled.
"But how do we kill them? How do we make them bleed?" Tytos asked, now heated. The two before him shared a look.
"Your Grace we... do not know how. There are rumors, suspicions, but none of it may be true." The king leaned back in his throne, regretting ever having thought he would have found a solution with these two.
"Get out then." The king said miserably.
"Our gold, Your Grace?" Drabardi asked.
"You'll get it! Now GET OUT!" The king roared. Two guards escorted the two visitors out of the hall while the king slumped back in his throne.
Sven sat in the grand hall watching the Roger Malyion with great attention. He enjoyed the disdain given to him by the rest of the lords at the table, enjoyed how it angered them for one born so low to be placed so high. The king's food and drink were brought out, which meant that the lords would soon receive theirs as well. Sven had some roasted bird that was being served, along with the finest wine in the west, which he drained quickly. He signaled the royal food-taster, who was just about to taste the king's wine, for more. Roger, being the gentleman he was, motioned for the food-taster to refill Sven's cup. When the taster tried to plead with the king that it wasn't his job, Roger merely murmered that the lords at the table were honoured guests.
If nothing else, King Roger was chivalrous!
Sven's wine was refilled and a sudden scrabble outside the hall drew all eyes to the door. Shouting ensued and a ragged man was brought into the room, guards holding each of his arms stiffly.
"Your Grace. This man has a message for you." King Roger motioned for the man to speak.
"Your Highness, I come to give you a message: the west calls for aid. Dragons roam, burning down villages and slaughtering. There is word of giant stone citadels, from which the dragons fly out from. Your people need you now! Now more than ever!" The man cried in exasperation. The room was now silent as King Roger rose to his feet. A few lords began to call nonsense, as that is what they percieved the king's reaction to be, but they were soon taken aback as the king spoke.
"My kingdom calls for aid, and they shall have it!" He yelled. "Let Korlath take our kingdom, I will not be the one who went meekly to my grave without even trying to stop this calamity." One lord stood up and shouted:
"LONG LIVE THE KING!" Which was taken up by all the lords in the room. They toasted and the king took a sip of his wine.
He sat down and his face began to tun red. He coughed, then coughed quite some more and grabbed at his throat. Attendants ran to his side and guards stood around dumbfounded while the king choked.
Sven smiled, stood up, and slipped out of the room in the following confusion.
The ship tossed and turned on the upset ocean. A red sunrise had come with the promise of a bitter night, and with that night had come the worst storm encountered yet. One man stood at the front of the ship.
A man cloaked in red.
"M'lord!" A voice called out from the stairway leading to the belly of the ship. "M'lord would rather be away from this storm I think?" The man yelled above the roaring winds.
"I am no lord, and I far prefer the deck up here than my cabin. Now go back down."
"But m'lo- I mean, sir. Aren't you worried about the storm?"
"The storm? No. The gods wouldn't dare hurt me" The man cackled. "Now go get some sleep. We have quite a long way to sail still before we get to Emiria."
"Yes. Yes sir."
The ravens had brought him the news. Total war in Emiria, the King of the West dead and dragons slaughtering everyone unlucky enough to encounter them, regardless of allegiance. Now was the time to descend upon them, unsuspecting as they would be. He needed no army to dominant Emiria. He needed no sword to kill a man.
He was not a lord, nor a king, but a powerful man in his own right. This man cloaked in a cape stained with blood.
Too late! King Roger was dead, murdered in his own castle! Drake smashed his fist angrily against the wall. It had been for naught, all that he had tried to do. With the north locked in their own civil war, the west divided against itself as to who was to blame and who was to lead now, the east stood no chance against his father.
Tytos Korlath would soon sweep over all of the west barely opposed. He would win the war.
There was no point in staying in the keep and waiting for his father's men to find him. He had no idea where he would go but it would be as far away from the west as he could get. As he gathered his supplies a knock came at his door. The lord of the house entered without asking. Drake had never bothered to learn his last name, but it had turned out that 'Garn' was actually his real name.
"You heard the news?" Garn asked him.
"Yes. Unfortunate. I'm heading out now as I don't care to be here when my father's men arrive to plant your head on a spike." Drake replied, gathering the rest of his things.
"Where will you go?"
"Does it matter? My father thinks I'm dead, at least for now."
Garn sighed. "I suppose not. Well then, be gone and good riddance." The older man said, leaving the room. Drake eyed him suspiciously as he left and left himself. He walked out to the stables and turned around at a shout.
As Drake mounted his horse, Garn's familiar voice caught him again. Drake turned and saw that the man looked legitimately frightened.
"We just got a rider in. Dragons, tons of 'em. Burning up everyone they can find. You still sure you want to leave?" Dragons. Not the first time Drake had heard about them.
"Better to be traveling than sitting in a target. I'll be leaving." As Drake rode out he thought about the girl he had been sent to find. One that could supposedly combat these dragons.
Most likely dead. What good is a prophecy against a death-breathing titan? Drake thought. But he kept wondering about what might have been and what might still be if the girl were still alive.
Prophecies.... what good are they? Drake thought as he made for the road.
Korlath met with generals in a tent baring the black-and-silver colours of House Korlath. The tent was larger than the King's own and it stood among thousands of others at the most southernly point of the western kingdom. Korlath's ships had transported an additional 6,000 soldiers to meet up with the 8,000 already preparing for the final push. Korlath himself had only rode in a few nights before.
This army was completely unknown to the feuding families that bid for control of the western throne. True, the generals of the western army did continue to fight, but they were separate and had constantly recieved different orders from the lords they served.
With the poisioning of Malyion, at least seven different families had laid claim to the title which probably wouldn't exist in a few months, if Korlath had his way.
"How long till we march on Sky Fort?" Korlath barked to his generals.
"A month, maybe? The castle itself is still loyal to the Malyion boy, but I don't think it will take too long before it falls under attack from one of the other houses. Then..." High General Reutack made a throat-slitting motion. "Once we capture the seat of the king, the rest of the west will fall into line."
Korlath grimaced but nodded his approval. "A month? Mortis take us, do we have a month? Caina is already upon us and these dragon attacks get worse and worse." Korlath turned to the general responsible for overseeing the dragon defence. "Well?! What have you to say, man?"
The general looked distinctly nervous. Reutack put a large meaty hand on the young general's shoulder, almost fatherly. Reutack towered over the rest of the attendees of the war meeting but he had a gentle air to him - gentle for a man who has devoted his life to war. The young general was finally able to stutter out his report.
"T-the dragons. Yes. Well, sire, they seem to be increasing the frequency of their attacks. While most castles in the south are stone, they are still doing considerable damage, not to mention the assaults on our crops."
"Have we figured out how to kill them yet?" The king asked.
"No, no. Not yet. We kill some of the purple ones now and again, but the exact method eludes us. As for the ones that resemble the master dragon, we haven't been able to kill any of them."
"And the many warriors claiming to be able to kill them? What of those?"
"None have proven successful, your majesty." The young general sniffed.
The king acknowledged him, and then dismissed the generals. Reutack stayed temporarily.
"Sire, there have been... rumours. I don't mean to bother you with them, but they might be important."
"I've heard the rumours, Reutack." The High General looked surprised. "Yes. Dead things. Men, animals... dragons. Dead things wandering the countryside. In your opinion, General, do they exist?" The General shook his head.
"No. If the dead rose, wars would never be fought."
"Then you are a fool. You are not experienced in magic. It exists and has the power to bind the dead to life, it has the power to take pain and to give it. I could have studied it..." The king said wistfully. "My father rejected anything that fell outside his faith. A stupid man. You, General, are not a stupid man, else I would not have appointed you to such an office. But there are things I have not told you. The dragons were dying, but they have come back. The dead no longer sleep. Has it ever occurred to you exactly why I chose this time to fight a war?
"This is but a means to an end. I do not desire the riches - I am rich. I do not desire the land - my lands are undoubtably boundless and glorious already. I do not desire power - I have absolute in my domain. I seek to establish a dominion of men that can withstand these grave threats. How can I do that with Emiria divided by three petty fools?
Why should men give any inch of the territory we have earned? We have fought for every mile with our blood and we will fight until the end to maintain it. Whatever comes, be it dragons, necromancers or gods. When Emiria is under one rule we can then throw these outsiders away. Dragons, Alfa, the whole lot of them, this land was carved by men and it shall be ruled by men! You are dismissed, General."
Drake rode north. Where else, but the north. The last place of seclusion from the war. Thrice already he had hid from soldiers and more than once he had seen a black silhouette of a dragon in the distance. Drake had not even reached the twin lakes yet!
His trip was dull and his thoughts wandered. To his father, to that girl he was supposed to capture - the one that, indirectly, had seen him exiled, to his mother.
It was all very dull! Drake needed something to excite him and get his blood rushing. He considered 'rushing' to wherever his father was and confronting him, but he wiped it from his mind and continued, undeterred, north.
But the consideration made all the difference.
The West had fallen on the 33rd of Frostfall. What was a "diplomatic visit" had turned into the public beheading of Steffon, the Malyion heir by a rebel lord. Korlath's forces had laid siege to the castle and the combined guilt of the man now sitting the western throne and the spiteful forces inside the castle delivered it into southern hands.
In that time span, Korlath recieved dozens of letters from the east asking for any form of aid possible. Korlath merely responded with a declaration of war against the east.
Easy. He thought. So easy.