Chapter 30: Aftermath
The Deshika, with the apparent defeat of The Kindler, quickly gave way to the decimated Morschen armies. No one on the field still had the heart for the battle anyway, not after three days of slaughter equal to anything that either side had ever lived through before. Two hundred and fifty thousand Deshika lay dead on five different battlefields spread around Emin-Tal. Hundreds of thousands of Morschen had died in those same battles. But, less than one hour after Edya had bested The Kindler, the Deshika had vanished from the final field of death, retreating far to the north as fast as their tired legs would carry them.
Slowly, the battered Morschen army began to pull itself together, with the banner of Drogoda as the point that everyone seemed drawn towards. Seven of the Morschcoda found each other on the edge of the battlefield, not wanting to wade through the ocean of death and blood, but two of their number, alive or dead, were somewhere in the tangled mess, and so they too made their way to the torn and bloody but proud banner, easily seen for miles, as the hill of slain Mordak and their Riders that had fallen defending it rose almost fifteen feet above the rest of the plain of dead.
It was Erygan that first saw Daken stumbling around a little way off. His armour was torn, and he clutched the hilt shard of his broken sword, barely a foot long, and he had clearly been using it. As they got closer, they saw how much more damage had been done to him. Two fingers on his left hand, which still clung desperately to his scarred leather satchel, had been cut off. His helmet was missing, and the top half of his right ear was also gone. His nose was definitely broken, and it looked like he had been head butted. He was limping, and blood was pouring from a deep gash above his right knee. Even compared to men and women of the Dragon Hearted, he had sustained an impressive amount of damage. It was shocking was that he was even still alive, let alone walking.
Another shock, and far worse, waited for the group of now nine Morschcoda, for Erygan had created a portal to Dishmo Kornara and returned with Norrin, as they approached the Drogodan flag. Five members of the Spear of Drogoda still lived and still had their mounts. Two other members of the Spear had survived the severing, and were busy pulling the small, strong scales off of their partners’ hides. It was a solemn moment for everyone, but that was not the worst of it. Of the entire strength of the Brotherhood of the Mordak, only five hundred had survived. Not a single one was uninjured. Of those five hundred, another hundred and fifty had lost their Mordak, while seventy Mordak stood off in a pack, those beasts that had survived their Rider’s death. No one knew whether those Mordak would allow one of the men who had lost a mount to be a new Rider for it. Xari, walking through what would later be known as the Grave of Drogoda, stepped on something. Bending over, she picked up the carved slingshot that she had seen one Rider with that day, so long ago in Eshtam-Nis. She closed her fist around it, bringing it to her chest. Tears began to fall unchecked from her eyes. Other Riders were moving through the dead, searching for the legendary Drog War Bows that members of the Spear had bourn. They recovered thirty nine, and some thought that there should be another, until one woman remembered that Taren had had it with him in Agrista. But even that was not the worst.
Edya knelt on the cold damp ground, in one of the only places that bodies did not completely cover, just a few feet from the hill of Drog dead. She was facing it, tears that she made no attempt to control streaming down her face. Cradled in her lap was the limp body of Regath Encarthian, last Lord of the Mordak. Seeing Edya broke the rest of the Morschcoda, and together, they wept openly.
Finally, almost a day and a half later, all the haunting death lays and dirges were sung. It was impossible for any of those countries, such as Drogoda, that had rituals to perform to carry them out, as in their case the nearest water was five leagues away, or more. So, all ten Morschcoda agreed that they could only do one thing. The dead had to be burned. Armandans created a raging fire that even for them it was almost too hot to get close to. And for the next two days, tired though they were, everyone worked to bring the tens of thousands of dead Morschen to the consuming fires. Torridestans worked tirelessly creating portals. The dead were stripped of armour and their Rings were cautiously and reverently removed. Some armour was sent through the portals to whatever country it belonged to, but the majority was sent to the four places it was judged would stand the longest or had the best ability to retreat from: Dishmo Kornara, Galzeen, Eshtam-Nis, and An-Aniath. All Rings, Edya and Daliana forced the other Morschcoda to agree, were sent to Eshtam-Nis. It would be safer bringing prospective Ringlords there than it would be to take them to Dishmo Kornara. And that way, they could help ensure that the ancient city would remain hidden. El Darnen took an active part in the debates that followed the war. He offered the complex mazes of tunnels that he and the Greshida called home as a refuge for all Morschen, and most of the Morschcoda agreed that the more seriously wounded, most living Ringlords and certain persons of importance should be sent there as soon as possible. The one thing that was agreed on mostly without question was that the Morschledu had to disappear.
“For,” said Edya through the tears that still poured from her eyes “we know that The Kindler has more strength that we can’t fight. We haven’t won, merely postponed our defeat. Now, to avoid our fall forever, we must seem to have all gone into the grave.”
“Aye,” agreed Daken. “Even as Taren’s stand at Agrista, we haven’t gained anything, but we couldn’t do anything else.”
Erygan disagreed half-heartedly. “For three days we stood here, refusing to step back across a line we drew ourselves. Now you want to make it seem as though that was merely a wasted effort? I won’t allow that. It’s disrespectful to the dead and to those that remember them. What would Taren say?”
But Kallin had other thoughts. “Unless we disappear, Erygan, no one will live to remember the dead. But there is no need for us all to go into hiding, though many of us should. Noldoron still stands, and the forests of Dothoro will long hold against any force the Kindler dares to send into them. But other countries must hide their Ringlords and their great treasures while they still can. The hordes of Rings, the Meclaryan Dragon Eggs, the contents of the Great Library, and the Royal Armoury of Alquendiro should all be hidden beyond the Kindler’s reach.”
Even Erygan agreed. Measures had to be taken to ensure that the next generation of Ringlords would rise, regardless of what stood against them.
All the fires were quenched, and all the Morschen, save the ten Morschcoda and El Darnen, had left. There, at the Grave of Drogoda, the eleven leaders swore a sacred oath of trust, unity, and kinship to each other. They would work as one to ensure the future of the Morschledu, to find ways to destroy The Kindler and the rest of the Seven Devils, and to protect the land that they all called home. They called it the Garrenin Oath, for it had been Taren’s one overriding purpose, his one dream, to see Anaria united and at peace with itself. And for the first time in over twenty thousand years, the Morschcoda of the Ten Nations of Anaria were bound together by magic and common purpose, willing to set aside petty differences to achieve their ultimate goal.
That oath was to be the first and one of the only good things that would come of the long and bitter war that was to follow.
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