Fireballs the size of wagons and plows were launched into the air by both catapults and trebuchets at the fortress. The blazing infernos caused widespread panic from the servants as they raced around the fortress, trying to put out the many fires that were slowly consuming the wooden buildings in the courtyard. Some of the shots from the trebuchets made it far enough into the courtyard to blast against the rock face of the tower itself.
The mighty walls of the fortress repelled each onslaught, and shrugged off the fireballs without a scratch.
General Pyrhus watched from the second level as the attack continued, one wave after another of the fireballs and stone blocks that were hurdled at his beloved Feyraven. “It is time,” he whispered to himself.” He spun away from the parapet and ran back toward the nearest trebuchet and its crew. Sliding to a stop with his sword raised high above his head he cries out, “Send these creatures back to the hellholes they came from. FIRE!!” The call went out everywhere across the fortress grounds. The trebuchets launched their payloads of boulders and fireballs right back into the midst of the armies beyond. Rocks drove deep into the earth on impact, exploding debris and dirt into the air and ripping apart the soldiers where ever they found their mark.
Because of the higher level, they had the advantage of reaching out farther across the landscape. Thus many found their way to the enemy catapults and trebuchets. Two shots ripped into a catapult and its crew, one after the other. The first tore straight through the chest of a cave troll that had helped lug the machine across the land, before burying into the ground under the left front wheel. The ground beneath the wheel erupted in a massive explosion just as the second rock blew straight through the body of the machine. Wood splintered and shredded before being blasted into the air.
Fireballs tore through the ranks of soldiers, catching many on fire, or downright crushing them beneath their mighty weight. Horns blew out across the armies as the soldiers rushed forward toward the massive walls before them. The front rows had ladders for scaling while the second and third rows of archers began to lay cover fire for the soldiers. They did their best to keep the warriors at bay on the ramparts and parapets above.
General Pyrhus saw what was going on and had the nearest scribe blow his horn, “Pole arms, NOW!!” He cried out as the first series of ladders made it to the side of the walls and soldiers began to file up the wooden rungs. Feyraven soldiers appeared by each ladder with a massive pole arm with a great crescent moon shape on one side.
Several men braced the pole arm under their feet before pushing with all their might against the ladders’ top rungs. The ladders began to sway and topple over one by one, and cheers went out across the walls. As the first wave of ladders was being repelled, General Pyrhus saw what was coming next. He turned to a flag bearer to his left and nodded to the lad. The lad nodded back and began to wave his flag side to side as high as he could so the officers on the walls could see. “Incoming, SHEILDS UP!!!” The general screamed at the tops of his lungs. A great black shadow rose up from the depths of the enemy army like a great flock of birds rushing to meet them. Each soldier carried a sword and a shield with them at all times.
When the called rang out each shield was raised up above its own as the ensuing death began to rain down on them. 1,000’s of arrows were launched 10 times, one after the other, at the fortress walls. Many arrows hit against the shields or missed their target entirely, thus burying deep into the ground. Others found their targets, piercing flesh and bone. Hundreds of soldiers died or were injured in that attack.
Both sides exchanged volleys of rock and arrow for the next few hours as the soldiers tried two more times at scaling the walls. This all seemed to happen in the blink of an eye as the soldiers trudged on in their duties.
That was until the siege towers began to move. Like great metal beasts themselves, they moved like massive turtles, slowly making their way up through the ranks towards the walls. Trudging through mud and grime mountain trolls pushed the siege towers from behind. Their tree trunk size limbs rippling with unnatural muscles pushed with all their might to move the mighty siege weapons forward. Each one contained 250 orcs, goblins, and men awaiting their chance to scale the walls and bring the fight directly to Feyraven’s defenders.
Drums sounded toward the rear of the legions that attacked the walls. The great thrumming and hammering sounded like thunder over the chaos of the battle. Hobgoblins beat relentlessly on the drums covered in the skins of the great Dirzamon Tigers. Feyraven’s soldiers fought to steel their nerves against the drums thundering in the distance and the howling and cacophony of the dark creatures before them.
General Pyrhus made his way up the staircase of the western gatehouse. As he came to the roof of the gatehouse the stench of the army before him washed over him in undulating waves. “Good god, even half a mile away they are still filthy vermin, eh Cassius?” He looked back to the commander of the western wall division.
“Aye general, indeed they smell like rotten pig slop and horse dung, ack!” The dwarf, with his scarred face and smoky grey hair bellowed as he spat on the stone floor. His emerald green armor glistened in the fire light of the nearby braziers. He was shorter then Kerak but stockier and older by 100 years. He had been the first dwarf from Khardazaun to ever be appointed wall commander. With that honor he took his job seriously especially since it was his wall that faced the wastelands beyond. “It been burning me nose ever since they showed their ugly mugs.” He nodded as he received the latest reports of the battle. He looked them over once before passing them on to Pyrhus, “Seeming the other walls are fairing the same though the eastern wall is getting a concentrated barrage of artillery where the eastern gate used to be.”
General Pyrhus raised an eyebrow as he took the scrolls and looked them over, “Yes, so they are. Seems that Rhamas has his hands full, though we expected this to happen.” He rolled the scroll up and handed it back to the messenger, “Send word to the servants to double the debris piling in the buildings that bar the gate wall.” He put his hands behind his back as he turned back to the battle, “that should slow things down if they manage to break through there.”
“Agreed general. On your way lad with the orders to Rhamas.” The dwarf shooed the boy on his way, and turned back to the battle as well. “Two siege towers are almost in range of our ballista, should I prepare the surprise, sir?” He asked with a hint of enthusiasm.
General Pyrhus watched the two towers inching closer to the wall just north of the gatehouse. He saw the trolls taking numerous arrows in their backs and arms but kept going. He cringed at the idea of facing them if they made their way into the courtyard. “Yes lieutenant, give the signal.” He wasn’t sure if Tristan’s idea would work, but the lad had been in the service of his brother long enough to learn some good tactics to fight his brother’s men. “The men have 5 minutes to prepare before both towers are in range.”
The eastern wall battalion commander almost jumped at the order with glee. He at first hearing of the plan, was amazed a human could know so much about engineering designs. But after looking over the schematics of the towers himself, he knew the plan would work, and was eager to try it out. “Yes sir,” he saluted and then turned to the ballista crew on the roof nearby, “alright lads its time to get to work.”
He hurried over to the men, “get this machine turned northward now, we got 5 minutes.” He yelled over the noise of battle before turning to the flag bearer, “Signal the northern tower to get ready.”
The man with the flag nodded and began signaling the men on the roof of the other tower. After a few minutes of signaling the flag bearer turned to Cassius, “It is done sir.” He saluted and stood waiting his next command.
“Wait for my signal,” the dwarf commander said as he watched the towers come closer to the wall.
“FIRE!!!” Cassius jumped up into the air swinging his battle axe down with so much force he broke the stone tile in front of him. Without looking down at the destruction he had caused he watched as the two ballistae fired at the same time. The twin hooks of each machine sliced through the air at an incredible speed with a line of mithral cable protruding behind it. Both speared hooks found their targets at the same time. Twin explosions sounded over the battle as the spears punctured the tower walls, ripping through armor, timbers, and soldiers. The cables snapped tightly and the hooks ripped back into the wall. The hooks bit into the armored wall but held tightly.
“Release the stones,” Cassius yelled, his face turning almost purple to be heard over the battle. Nearby on the opposite side of the gatehouse, a latch was pulled and a massive counterweight of stones dropped off the side of the wall. The cable snapped tighter under the pressure of the weight but still gripped tightly into the wall. The weights pulled tightly against the tower causing it to creak and groan under the weight.
General Pyrhus moved closer to Cassius, “Come on, work…” he whispered as he watched the tower begin to lean ever so slightly. The cable slid an inch over the stone wall toward them. Another inch, then another. Little by little it began to slide against the stone. Then suddenly there was a ear splitting shriek of metal and the cable gained speed. The tower reared up on its left side where it had been hit. Soldiers inside were screaming as they scrambled to stay upright and fight against fall debris inside as their world began to rotate. The first tower groaned and screamed under the pressure as it tipped over, collapsing like a great tree. It fell over soldiers and snapped ladders and it landed amidst the army nearest the wall. The second tower fell a second later, crushing even more soldiers and ladders.
Hundreds died in just under 30 seconds. A cheer went up across the wall as soldiers whooped and hollered in victory. The towers had now made a barrier in front of the wall’s foundation, thus blocking the way for any more siege weapons to get close to that section of wall.
“Not bad Tristan, not bad at all.” General Pyrhus smiled at Cassius, who in turn laughed a great bellowing laugh. “Send word to the other battalion commanders that it worked.”
Cassius with a big grin from ear to ear replied, “With pleasure sir.” He saluted and turned to find a messenger to spread the word.
Tristan stood on the landing platform near the top of the great Tower of Feyraven. He watched as the battle raged below him. He gripped the stone tightly in anger as he watched his brother’s soldiers throw everything they had at the walls. He looked beyond the walls to see the army stretch away into the distance, the storm clouds covering the tail end of the army in the distance.
It’s not right to be leaving, I must help some how.
His view afforded him a chance to see the western wall and the western half of the north and south walls. He knew Feyraven’s soldiers would hold out as long as they could but it wouldn’t last forever.
A scratching sound on the stone behind him made him smile as he turned to look upon Armania stood not more than 20 yards from him looking upon him as if she understood how he felt. She seemed to long for battle as well. Tristan walked over to her and patted her feathery neck as she leaned in close to him. “We will have our chance soon enough,” he said half heartedly, for he didn’t believe it himself.
Nearby, a group of 5 griffins and their riders hurriedly gathered their things in preparation of flight. These riders would escort Tristan to the Firestone Mountain range before returning to the battle to help where they could. They knew how important it was that Tristan makes it safely out of there, but they too wanted to be in the fight. Their leader, 1st lieutenant Argos, turned his head to watch Tristan and Armania embrace as he looked over his own griffin. “A magnificent creature Armania is. I have only seen great eagles from far off distances. But up close I see they are even more beautiful than the tales describe.” He patted his griffin on the neck and rubbed its peak with his hand.
Tristan smiled, “Thank you Argos, she is indeed a beautiful creature, though I must admit I prefer riding a horse on the solid ground to flying a creature that could swallow me whole.” He chuckled as Armania pushed him with her beak with an expression of mock pain, or what passed for one on a bird. He looked at the men and their mounts before him, “Is everything about ready?”
Argos looked over to his men and they all nodded. He checked the saddle on his griffin one more time and then turned to Tristan, “Indeed we are.”
Just then a bright light glowed from behind his men. The light was coming from the doorway into the tower. The light became so bright that some of the men shielded their eyes while others turned away. At the light’s brightest point is when Siphidias and Leonidas’ angelic forms appeared before everyone on the platform. The light faded slightly, though only enough for the men to bear looking in their direction. Their wings flapped behind them once, stirring up a slight breeze that ruffled the feathers of Armania. The Eschrehims’ armor glistened and shimmered of its own light. As the two stepped forward, Leonidas turned to Tristan, “Is everything ready? You must leave soon or risk being caught by the Dark Messenger and his drakes.”
Tristan grabbed his pack and slung it over his shoulder before climbing onto Armania’s back. “Yes everything is in order, though I still do not like leaving this battle without helping out.”
A few of Argos’ men grumbled and nodded in agreement. Siphidias smiled at them all, “We understand the need to stand up and fight along side your fellow warriors, but this mission that you Tristan are on, is even more important than anything else in this world.” He pointed to the necklace on Tristan, “And you must keep that safe at all times, and farthest from you brother and all other dark forces.”
Tristan sighed resignedly, “I understand…”
Leonidas cut him off, “See that you do Tristan, for it will be your salvation or you undoing if you do not come to grips at the scope of this battle.” His chiseled features seemed to scorn Tristan and make him feel at peace at the same time.
“I will,” he turned to 1st lieutenant Argos, “lead the way, lieutenant.”
The soldiers all jumped onto their mounts and slowed trotted over to edge of the platform. The talons of the griffins scraped against the stone floor as they made their way past Armania and Tristan. Some of the griffins were a little skittish being around Armania who was easily twice the size of any of them. But, they showed respect all the same for her.
As Tristan turned Armania to leave, Siphidias called after him, “Tristan, one last word of advice before you go.” Tristan looked back toward the Eschrehim. “Do not lose heart, although you will be hunted where ever you go, especially by your brother. You have people out there who will help along the way.” He looked deeply into Tristan’s eyes as he spoke.
“When you get to Abydos, do not delay in finding Lord Orin and the others.” Leonidas said as he too seemed to bore into Tristan with his eyes, “They will be at the university by the time you arrive.’
“I won’t forget, and thank you for your help.” Tristan turned back to see the griffin riders hovering a few hundred yards above the tower, waiting for him. Armania spread her wings and with a flick of her muscles she leapt into the air and easily caught up with the griffins who turned and raced off into the distance.
“Almighty Eschua, watch over Tristan, my Lord.” Siphidias looked up toward the heavens, his gaze piercing the stormy clouds above him.
“He desperately needs your guidance now, more than ever.” Leonidas added as he too looked skyward.
Just as they finished their prayer, a great sickening feeling washed over the tower like a wave crashing. The two Eschrehim knew what was coming; Keromas had arrived.
Off in the distance above the army, a group of winged creatures rose from the chaos below. Then one by one other winged creatures followed after them throughout the battlefield.
It could mean only one thing; Keromas knew that they tried to sneak Tristan away during the battle. Siphidias and Leonidas unfurled their wings, stretching them high above them. The light grew brighter around them as they pulled out their weapons. Leonidas chose his mighty bow, its wood pearl white and covered in runes. Siphidias pulled out his great sword gold hilted and diamond bladed, with his shield, silver inlaid with gold trim.
“So it begins again.” Siphidias stepped over the edge as Leonidas followed him, “Light battles Darkness once more.” With that they launched themselves off the platform and gave chase. They altered their approach a little to intercept the demons that had followed after Keromas. The light around them showed brightly above the battlefield. From below it looked like to comets shooting across the dark and stormy sky above. The Eschrehim snapped their wings once and the air around them crackled and hissed before they were launched even faster across the expanse. The action had sounded like a clap of thunder below them as they shot across the distance in a blur.
As the soldiers looked up from the battlefield all they could see were two spheres of light like shooting stars. The battle continued to rage below as another battle high above was about to begin.
Once the demons saw the Eschrehim they turned towards them to intercept as well. Walls of rain had begun to fall across the battlefield, drenching everyone. The winged warriors of Light and Dark raced across the expanse toward each other. Their flight paths cut through the torrential rain as if they had been plowing through snow.
Siphidias looked up toward their right and saw that Keromas and his drake riders had almost caught up with Tristan and the griffins. “We must hurry, look, Keromas is about to reach Tristan.” Siphidias pointed as they flew faster toward the demons.
“Agreed,” Leonidas said as he stopped himself in midair. He quickly pulled out his bow as 5 demons were about to close on them. Pulling back tightly on the silver string the cord rippled under the pressure. His muscles tightened as he pulled back with all his strength. The arrow was bluish white, like the color of a glacier.
Time seemed to slow down as he sighted in on the demons flying toward them. There charcoal horns curved back behind their heads like rams. Their skin, crimson, dark violet, or midnight black, glistened wet from the downpour. Their hoofed feet clopped together every so often as they flew through the storm. The demons’ eyes seemed to pierce through all but the strongest willed foe.
Leonidas held his breath for one last moment, his wings beat fervently as he held his place in the sky. He released his breath at the same moment he released the arrow.
The whole world seemed to fall silent as the arrow leaped off the bow and pierced the dark and stormy sky in a brilliance of light. Like a beacon through the darkest storm the arrow shot across the expanse, its light blinding the demons it sought to destroy. Just as it reached a distance of 50 feet from the demons in the air it exploded into 3 duplicate arrows. Each one locked in on a separate demon, and as one they blasted through the heart of each one. They howled and screamed blood curdling sounds that took the very breath away from the soldiers below.
The light itself seemed to rip right through their darkened life force, tearing massive holes through their bodies. The demons’ bodies began to shudder and quake from being touched by the holy light. They screamed in agony as their bodies were torn from the inside out until they exploded in to a million fiery embers that rained down like ash on the battlefield below.
The remaining two demons cried out in anger at the loss of their kin and flew right at Leonidas who was quickly trying to notch another arrow. Just as the first demon, its skin a crimson stain, rushed forward with a battleaxe Siphidias flew in between them and parried the strike away with his shield. He brought his sword around in an overhead slash that caught the demon off guard long enough to slice through its left horn. The blackened and sickly hued horn spun away, making the demon even angrier than before.
The demon came back around with his battleaxe in a sideways slash as he flew inwards toward Siphidias, bringing his full weight into the swing. Siphidias quickly brought up both his sword and shield to block before sliding his blade down the shaft of the axe and cutting deeply into the arm of the demon.
The demon pulled back his arm in a howl of pain but before he could bring his axe up to block, Siphidias came down hard on his head with the sword. The blade turned a bright white, radiating light as it bit deeply into the flesh and bone of the demon. He too shuddered and quaked before he was torn apart from the inside out.
Just as the demon exploded into ash, Siphidias turned to see Leonidas shoot the other demon in the chest before another one appeared behind them and quickly closed the gap with a snap of its wings. Leonidas barely had time to raise his bow to block a wild hack from the demon’s sword. Its obsidian blade clanked off the blessed bow, but the demon gave Leonidas an uppercut to the chin. Leonidas spun off to the right from the blow, but he slowed his movement with his wings and righted himself in the air.
The demon’s skin a midnight black rippled with what looked like up close the screams of a thousand souls. Their mouths pushed against his skin in silent horror as he flew close into Leonidas and swung again with his sword. However, this time the Eschrehim had switched out his bow for his own sword. The sapphire hilt flickered like in the light from the nearby lightning as Leonidas posed to attack. The diamond tipped blade met the dark blade of the demon as they began to parry and thrust, back and forth. They flew in circles as they fought, voraciously beating their wings as the thrill of battle overcame them both.
Siphidias couldn’t step in with out risking injury to Leonidas so he just fluttered there in place as a helpless bystander. Siphidias watched closely to their duel waiting for his chance to slip in and help Leonidas dispatch this enemy. They needed to hurry and reach Tristan before it was too late. Keromas and his drakes were almost within firing range of their breath weapons.
Finally the chance came as Leonidas swung his sword from the lower left toward the upper right as he leaned into the strike. The demon’s sword was almost knocked away. Siphidias shot in to the fight with a snap of his wings and brought his sword down to bear. Siphidias’ sword came down right onto the demon’s left shoulder at the same time Leonidas’ sword came down on the right shoulder and together they decapitated the monster.
Leonidas sighed, breathing in deeply, “Are we too late?” They both looked toward Tristan and the others flying off into the distance.
Siphidias’ eyes were perfect; he could see the greatest detail from miles away. What he saw made his heart skip a beat, “They are already upon them, it maybe too late.” He sheathed his sword as he studied the aerial battle.
“We have a responsibility, a mission Siphidias.” Leonidas reminded his old friend, “It’s not over yet.” With that he snapped his wings off and shot forward at unparalleled speeds. Siphidias sighed, snapped his wings and followed after him.