The Army Approaches
It made the air thick. The icy wind of late September whipped the scent of sap into the predawn mist. The fog parted as a man broke the plane of a high hill. From this vantage point he could see the large city below, full of stones and wooden houses. He sniffed. He had come to love the scent of the Northlands. So cold. So calculating. It was so different from his own warm city with its concrete structures and endless glass. In his lands, pleasure and revelry were easy and constant. In these climates, when you had to fight the elements to scrape out an existence, the dark winter’s thoughts had time to thrive.
He tugged the reins in his hands, and a gorgeous beast trotted up the hill to meet him. It was saddled like a horse, but far larger. Instead of a mane the beast had a hardened frill like a collar, protecting its neck. Though its hooves were gilded with gold, its body was clad in armor. As the blonde man pet the snout of the beast, a calm reverie came over him.
He whistled once, and a small group of men came riding behind him on similarly armored beasts, dressed for war.These 4 soldiers were not only his Firesquad and the commanders of his army, but his best friends. 2 commanded the platoon of soldiers, who tailed behind the Firesquad up the hill. These 20 additional mounted men would have made for a poor army. Behind the mounted men, however, dragged rows and rows of foot troops. They were blinded by hoods, chained together in long lines where they shook and reacted violently to any small sound. Each mounted man held a chain, holding 10 of the ground troops. Tortured and trained into submission the 200 lost souls, the Dregs, held steady. The magic that held them together and the sins that weighed them down wouldn’t last for long and soon they would disintegrate and rot away.
As each man checked his weapons and adjusted their chains, the largest of them rode up to the blonde man standing alone at the head of the small army.
“It’s time, my lord.” When the other did not react Agaliarept, Lieutenant of the Dreg Army dismounted placed a hand on the other’s shoulder. “General? Cyperian?” The other man patted his hand and responded,
“Sorry, I’m nervous.”
“We’ve done this many times before, Cy.” Agaliarept pointed out.
“This is different.”He said “Today, we will change history.” General Cyperian gave his old friend a friendly pat on the cheek and swung onto his beast as Agaliarept followed suit.
“My men,” the General spoke to his battalion, “today we try to attempt something our fathers told us was folly. Remember, to sneak and stun as long as you can…. once we make it to the Citadel, let hell break loose. Lieutenants Abdiel, take Lieutenant Nachi and find the innocents. Lieutenant Verrier, lay waste. Have fun.” He scanned the small group of men. “Thank you all for coming with me today. I know you believe, like I do.” He reached over to his friend and grabbed Agaliarept’s hand.
The two began to breathe in tandem, slowly at first, the breaths in long and languid and the forced out fast and sharp.The men behind them began to pick up the rhythm. As the sun broke the plane of the sky, and dawn’s first light was seen, the General let out a piercing roar.
The mounted men doubled over at the sound, clutching their bodies as a writhing overtook them. What were the form of men began to change, to evolve, to features of all creatures. Horns sprouted as screams erupted, burgeoning fur and occasional wings now dappling the few mounted men behind Cyperian. As bones cracked, the cries became louder and stronger mingling with those of the deformed soldiers behind them whose bloodlust was stoked by the crackling energy that transformed the leaders.
They were ready to ride.