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The Revenge of Rennir

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When King Astor's finest soldier is captured in battle by the power-hungry King Melach's forces, execution seems to be the only outcome for Rennir. His reputation as one of the world's best fighters wins him unexpected favour with Melach, however, who summons him to a soul-auction - a series of near-impossible challenges intended to promise a gruesome death, or possibly win his freedom back. Can the young fighter save himself, and maybe renew hope for his people's future?

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Night fell slowly over the Eastern Plains. With the darkness, anticipation grew in the hearts of those who marched under King Astor’s banners of blue and silver. Each one shimmered with the last of the twilight and the army campfire’s glow.

The army of almost fifty thousand had set up camp on a hill overlooking the valley beyond the borders of Astor’s kingdom, where King Melach and his forces were expected to start their invasion by dawn. The Laws of the Ancient Ones decreed that on the night before war, both sides were free to prepare for battle, to eat until their stomachs were full, and they were healthy in body and spirit before they met their opponent. The Laws meant that for Astor’s army, they could rest as much as they could, knowing Melach’s forces were enjoying their last moments of peace too.

Yet, an uneasy air crept into the lungs of every fighter, healer, strategist, and kingsman in the camp. Melach was a force to be reckoned with, and a loss to Astor meant a loss to all of Terore. Defeat meant utter disaster, not just death.

An uneasy peace had once been brokered between Melach and Astor, where trade allowed to keep the power-hungry Melach satisfied, but his desire for Astor’s land and resources grew more evident with each harvest. It meant that Terore was in danger of being carved up for Melach’s personal enjoyment. Allies in the north had tried to reign in Melach’s megalomania, and called on the High Queen, Rivane, to place sanctions on him – but to no avail. Astor, once revered for his generosity and goodwill, was now alone in the power play of the Four Realms.

Rennir was aware of the political implications of tomorrow’s threat, and while he cursed Melach’s greed and tyranny for bringing war to Terore, his focus remained on his own skills. Years of training and smaller battles prepared him for what was to come, or so he’d hope, but he had faith in his strength and the skill of his comrades. Rennir’s brigade was given the accolate of the Freemen for good reason; soldiers with such talent on the battlefield that the King considered them too powerful to be merely royal bodyguards. Instead, they were the best, and their freedom allowed them to position themselves to their best advantage in combat.

“The Seers say tomorrow will be a crimson dawn”, declared Kraytor as he approached Rennir, who looked over the campsite pensively.

“The Seers should know better than to declare bad omens before battle,” Rennir scorned.

“True, but some of the soldiers were quick to respond. The crimson will be from the blood of Melech’s bodyguards, and the valley’s rivers will be as red as the skies.”

“A better premonition, I’d like to think.”

Kraytor stepped a little closer, and joined Rennir in his gaze over the camp. The site was a makeshift town in size, with huts and shelters set up to house beds, food halls, and space for any wounded to heal. Soldiers – especially the inexperienced ones – were warned not to drink much before battle, but some would have had enough to pretend to be merry, as music and song were heard in the distance.

“It was inevitable that we’d stand here tonight,” Kraytor said. “The fate of our people lies in that valley tomorrow.”

“We’ve been here before, my friend. We’ve fought enemies with better might than Melach, better stamina, and better skill. The only thing that exceeds our past experience is his arrogance, and that can’t protect him against our weapons. His last moments will be full with remorse for thinking Astor would fall before him.”

Kraytor paused for a moment, taking in his friend’s words.

“I hope you’re right, for their sake in the camp. War will change them, and we’ve been through enough hardship already. This year’s harvest was taken as another bad omen by the Seers, and now this battle is being considered proof of their foresight. We need to win this, if not to defeat Melech’s bloodlust, then to give us better faith in our own future.”

“Let us hope”, Rennir replied, “that if tomorrow is indeed a Crimson Dawn, your soldiers are the true Seers of Terore.”

Rennir’s faith in premonitions, however, remained at an all-time low.

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