The black tide
The tensions between the humans and elves were rising, but these weren't the only problems plaguing the world. With human and elven armies at one another's throats, certain other individuals saw an opportunity.
Those individuals had evil in their hearts, and they took the chaos of the world in stride, hoping to conquer a divided world. Orcs, Trolls, undead, vampires, and all evil creatures gathered together and began to emerge inside cities and towns like a virus swiftly taking over like a black tide. This army of evil soon claimed several key areas in the world in a span of 4 months, the human soldiers who were supposed to be defending these areas were instead part of the force that was blockading the Elven Island. There was only one force on this Earth that was even lifting a finger to stop them, the Dwarven kingdoms.
The Dwarven kingdoms mostly operated underground, and had little to no interaction with the world above. However this evil tide was enough to garner their attention, and their armies were soon seen stemming the tide's advance. However they couldn't do it alone, and were soon forced to turn to the men who wouldn't defend their own land.
King Siegfried was meeting with the Dwarven chiefs and so far it was not going well.
Curse the being who gave stubbornness to the dwarves!
"We need the support of the Tempest Vanguards; it's the only way to turn back this tide!" One Dwarven chief was practically yelling at the king.
"If we divert our resources to fighting this war, the elves could attack us at any time. We don't stand a chance fighting on two fronts." Siegfried responded calmly, refusing to fight fire with fire.
"Forget your squabble with the elves! If we don't defeat this tide then all of us are doomed!" The lead dwarven chief rubbed his beard and sighed "We don't have the numbers to defeat this tide alone, please we need your knights….please." Dwarves rarely begged, but Siegfried was able to say he had seen several dwarven leaders begging at his feet.
"Alright, I'll devote a legion to your cause."
"Thanks to you sir! Send them to Crag pass; we have a massive invasion planned soon." The Dwarves shook his hand and promised to drink to his health for his actions.
As they filled out Siegfried began to make the arrangements to send the legion to the pass, and also change his blockade plans to compensate for the loss of a legion. However just as he finished his plans an aide rushed into the room:
"Milord, the elven army is massing on the island! Should I prepare the navy for an attack?"
"Yes!" Siegfried then paused suddenly hammered with a decision. He had just promised a legion to the dwarves, but if the elves attacked his lands, he would need every single man he could get to bear arms. I need to look out for my people. He thought. "Get all the legions of knights and men at arms to that island! Don't fire unless fired upon, I'll be there shortly."
He rubbed his head as he realized what he had done to the dwarves, thousands of years ago humans and dwarves were once allies and perhaps they could have been again, but his actions had doomed those relations.
The surprising thing was: He didn't care; all he cared about was stopping the elves from harming his people. If Mael wouldn't listen to reason, then he'd do what was necessary, but he wouldn't be the aggressor in this war, that honor belonged to the elves.
I'm sorry He thought to the dwarven chiefs, but he had to move on.
That night at the fortress of Crag Pass the dwarven chiefs looked at the 2,000 dwarf army that stood before them, and they felt their pride waver a bit. The dwarves were as hard and tough as the stone they forged, but time had not been good to them and their numbers were declining. 2,000 warriors were all they had, and so many had been slain during the bloody battles to defend this land. It seems that every single evil creature, some so ancient they were thought to be legends, had crawled out of whatever hole the heroes of old had put them in and they were fighting with the black tide.
The dwarves had one advantage however, and that was firepower. They had been doing the one thing that they were built for, making weapons.
Their whole fortress was packed with cannons; massive weapons that spat lobs of fire and metal at incredible speeds. Mortars fired the lobs overhead, and their newest invention were hand-held "guns" that fired iron and steel pellets, and just one pellet was enough to take a knight off his horse.
Several other dwarves held crossbows and stood behind another rank of dwarves holding battle-axes and shields. These Dwarves stood in an impenetrable shield wall; that the black tide would never break. Many more dwarves held one handed swords and round shields, and they stood by their axe wielding brothers ready to battle alongside them. The 2,000 dwarven warriors all had colors on the shoulders of their armor indicating the hold they belonged to, but the dwarves knew that for this battle it didn't really matter. They were all warriors and they were all dwarves, each one was clad in steel dwarven made armor, each one wore an iron cap, each one had tucked their beards into their belts, and each one was far too stubborn to realize they were going to die.
The only dwarves that stood out from the crowd were the nine dwarven chiefs who were all clad in golden armor and wielding silver weapons that shone as night began to fall. The nine chiefs stood at the head of the army fully intending to be the first ones in the battle. They projected confidence and faith to their troops, but inwardly they were asking themselves a question that was tearing their nerves apart.
Where is the human legion?
The dwarves waited for the sight of the legion of human knights to arrive, but no one did. The lookouts scanned the horizon and listened for the march of booted feet or horse hooves, but no sight or sound of the legion came.
The silence was deafening and many dwarves found that the silence was attacking their nerves making them slightly jump at the slightest noise, although no one saw it.
"They're here!" Screamed a lookout, waving frantically at the army.
All 2,000 dwarves brought themselves up to their full heights1 and looked around hoping to see and hear the sounds of a legion of Tempest Vanguards marching to aid them, but instead they heard a low rumbling and it came from the front, not the back which is where the legion would have come from.
The rumbling increased and the horizon in front of the dwarves suddenly became a long line of black nothingness slowly creeping towards the dwarven army, or at least it was nothingness until forms began walking out of it with strands of black smoke hanging around their bodies.
Banners were held high by the frontrunners who happened to be goblins. Man sized goblins waved the black flags high as their smaller knee high brethren darted around their legs, following the goblins came a raging mob of orc warriors, with their skin painted blood red with war paint. They screamed bloodthirsty praises to the skies and raised cleavers, spiked clubs, and large double headed battle-axes.
Beside the orcs marched rank after rank of non-magical skeletons. These long dead warriors held swords and bows and the smoky air quickly bleached their once shiny bones. To the dwarves it seemed like every cemetery in the world had risen to fight them, but the worst was yet to come.
The tide came on: Minotaurs, ogres, demons, trolls, undead, knights clad in black armor, wraiths, and other horrors too deadly to speak of, but the one thing that stood out was the leader of the black tide.
A massive black dragon with a wingspan longer than three full grown oak trees, the dragon screamed a high pitched roar and black flames shot from his mouth into the sky. Then the dragon dove downward and the black tide followed in his wake.
The Dwarves formed their shield wall and those with ranged weapons opened fire. Crossbow bolts and gunfire fell on the tide like rainstorms, but the storm didn't slow down the black tide. Cannons and mortars opened fire and the metal globs blew holes in the tides' front ranks, the dwarves fired, reloaded and fired again. They were part of the machines they operated and they kept their weapons firing smoothly.
The remaining dwarves braced themselves waiting for the tide to crash into their shield wall. They trusted in the strength of their shield wall which was as tough as the rock the dwarves worked with for a living.
The nine dwarven chiefs held their weapons in tight hands ready to cut bloody swathes through the tide as it came closer to them, the dwarven cannons barely slowing it down.
Until finally the tide crashed upon the 2,000 dwarves who fought alone, ready to defend the above ground world even if those who lived in it would not.
Five hours later
Siegfried rode his horse, clad in his best ceremonial armor. The entire human army marched beside him all heading to Crag Pass. The elves had been gathering forces on the island, but the humans quick response had struck down any ideas of an attack, so after a few tense words and some tension filled moments the elves disbanded and returned to their homes.
Siegfried then ordered his entire army to march to Crag Pass, hopefully the dwarves would still be fighting and he could keep his promise.
Just over the next hill. He thought, he couldn't hear the sounds of combat, but he drew his sword anticipating a lull in the battle.
He led his army up the hill and stopped at the sight that was before him, the knights that could see also stopped and turned away, while those that couldn't simply waited for those in front to move.
The sight that had stunned several battle hardened knights was this:
The massive battlefield was covered in corpses, and the fortress of Crag Pass was completely destroyed and half of it lay beneath the fresh corpse of a black dragon. Fires burned in several areas and the smoky air formed above the dead like wraiths, already vultures and crows were circling overhead. Dwarven corpses lay in mangled bloody heaps and those were the lucky ones. Others were simply burned beyond recognition, and some other corpses were nonexistent with only their owner's armor left behind, but lying beside each dwarf were at least six foes all slain before the dwarf had died.
Siegfried urged his horse forward carefully stepping through the battlefield and heading toward the fortress. He dismounted and called out orders "Men, search for survivors."
He knew it was futile but at least it gave the men something to do.
He walked into the fortress sidestepping the bodies of the monsters that had tried to assault it. He saw that the stairwells and entryways were choked with the bodies of dwarves and monsters alike and it was impossible to enter the individual rooms of the fortress, but from what the king could see several dwarves had made last stands inside those rooms.
He walked over to the dragon and saw nine weapons buried at various points inside the monster, beside the dragon the nine dwarven chiefs lay beside the beast they had slain.
Surprisingly Siegfried felt no regrets about his decision to not send help sooner; if his forces had been slain during this battle then the elves would have the advantage if they attacked. He had done what was right for his people and that's what he had to do as a king.
He saw a large hole in the dragon's chest and knelt beside the corpse. What could have torn the scales of a dragon like this? He looked back at where the shot could have come from and saw the body of a dwarf slumped over a cannon. He walked over to the cannon and inspected it trying to remember all he had read about the cannons and the strange thing that powered them: gunpowder.
Two more knights entered the fortress and walked towards their king. "Milord we only found a blood trail that indicates there was at least one survivor, but we have only found the dead."
Siegfried continued to examine the cannon and waved his knights over "Can our smiths and engineers carry this weapon out of here?"
"Yes sir" the knight nodded "There are several cannons, mortars, and smaller weapons that we haven't seen before, I can have the men collect them if you would like."
"Please do" The King stood with wild dreams of crushing the elves with a legion of metal cannons. He walked away from the fortress ruins, with his only thoughts being death, even though he was surrounded by it.
1 Which wasn't to high