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BLADECRAFT

By EN EJOB All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Blurb

“A doom advances from the horizon. And, in a time of crescent moon, when whirlwinds howl, shall the reek of catastrophe loiter. The chosen shall rise in glorious strife against each other and their clash shall define the edge between this age and the next.”

CHAPTER 1

70 years earlier.

That part of the field was almost phlegmatic and yet the buzzing of insects laid another melody in the atmosphere and there was a fresh reek of cadaver. Evenso, the battle was still ripe.

On the west flank of the cliff, there was a plain below which entertained still, the strife between the feuding clans of Lou and Han. The banners of both tribes still pierced the air and no, the battle was not near its end. General Meng knew most of all that the circumstances hardly favoured his position. He had mastered the routine of Han warfare and he intended to exploit this interstice. He held aloft his bark-hard arm rippling with bristles and the hilt of his sword choked in his grip, brandishing the opulence of his gauntlets crafted from the rare cave metals if irithai. He scanned through the battle field to demonstrate the gory detail of his stare. His arm dawdled in the air, holding the third wave of the swordsmen that consisted the infantry. He watched the second wave dwindle to a bare minimum; yet, that was no cause for scare. Their foe was powerful, but Meng was not moved. The spiky helmet he wore cast a shadow that suggested a stolid look and the darkness cast bonded with his lustre-charged dark sleek goatee. Yet the skies were gruesome, granting the picture a dreadful eyesore. The clouds stood in the way of sunlight but permitted dappled pores which emphasized the design of Meng’s breastplate. The figure of the green dragon entangled in the fires of fingh and curled about the circle of yin and yang, its breath of steam wonderfully portrayed.

The dampness permitted his boots to become bedraggled with the bog and blood. His men waited for the command but the General stood stone like a votive monument. Their expressions suggested doubt but the soldiers had fought at his side for too long to lose faith in him now. Besides, the tides of battle had turned dramatically recently in a way that was not so easy to ignore. They trusted Meng. Who wouldn’t? His impeccability was legendary. However, it was more than evident that the second wave of his army stood rather as bait. That did not worry him. It was part of the plan. In battle, sacrifices were made, he thought and besides, dying in battle was gladly an affordable honor. The families of great warriors fallen at battle will recount for ages, tales of the great men sacrificed for the realm—tales of brave hearts beating for their home and impaled in the course. Nothing was more worth it, preferably prescribed it ended in a laudable victory.

General Meng cherished that warsome dogma. Victory was his for the taking and besides, bait or not, men inevitably die at war. The Lou kingdom had managed for ages, trying to survive with the treachery of their perfidious and raiding fellow clan. This war, borne of the very house of an equal forebear Jeibai had exascerbated across time, mingling from then to this age. The emperor of the Lou dynasty had one wish and in pursuit of this aim, he tasked the General to deliver—to defeat the Han and in this conquest a new and united empire would thrive. A ludicrous wish it would seem to their foes. Nevertheless, their opinion was neither sought nor necessary by the emperor; for their impetinence had endured the ages past.

Not anymore.

With such thoughts lingering behind his temple, General Meng watched, transfixed as the assailants approached. He drew back his cloak to brandish the impedimenta of the weaponry that dangled at his belt; daggers, rope and a shurikan to name some.

Finally, the Han warriors were unto them. Just then, Meng drew out an amorphous silhouetted centaur horn and blared into the air. The effect of this fancy was immediate. The charging line of Han men began to fall in great numbers as arrows plummeted seemingly from the gray clouds. The archers of General Meng stood a calculated distance from his third wave and the horn was indication, a command—and an obvious edict. This design proceeded with two further arrow pelts and then another awaited command followed___

“Charge!”

The falsetto of his voice was deafening. The Lou warriors darted into the already demoralized Han men. The skill of Meng was indisputable. He had surely secured victory. Eventhough, it seemed too early to conclude for as the Lou warriors were honor bound to defend their dynasty, so too were the Han to their realm and in the turmoil of the entire scene, here and there, Han warriors planted blades in the entrails of their foe___and kin.

Meng fought like his body was impalpable. That was the result of his skill. Even though he stood a prime target, it was almost as futile killing him as hunting a wraith. Up and about, his blade danced in the mist of the shrieking innards of his foes. The beauty of his breastplate was shrouded with hot blood spurting from severed limbs. He was a steel pundit. The precision and agility of his strikes were stunning for he bore an unnatural punctilious nature—one not familiar with his age. Indeed, the General was no youngling although his speed would have suggested a counter thought. He was a battle-hardened fellow and many were his days in combat and so was the legend.

In his youth, he excelled in the steel art more than anyone that has ever been recorded and so his skill was a matter of prodigy. It is said that Meng was born in the cave of a dragon spirit—Kaijing and so his benediction was divine. Meng never knew mother and father though. They all died supposedly during a Han clan raid. The thought of such cruelty that deprived him of parentage must have fuelled his rash determination over the years. He battened down the hatches readying spirit and physique for a life time of fighting and plundering from the Han. His name was not strange on the tongues of the Han people. They knew him well and he had made sure of it. He had done his most to leave a scar wherever he went, and these markings were never of the favorable sort. The General marched his legions, attacking and depriving the Han of victory from any planned scheme. Battles were born everyday—battles that soon defined the future of the archipelago. Even after thousands of years, this conflict still lived on; a feud passed from age to age, its original cause almost faded from memory. However, there had equally been an out turn of events and right now, the Han had no leader precisely and they were ripe for the taking. Their individual avarice had costed them their kingdom and leadership. The Great Sorceress called the Puce would have carried on the fight for them but they made her go away. How they did that was not certain yet, but it was common knowledge that the sorceress had vanished.

This final battle would end the war. The Han were weakened after the assassination of their leader called Khanoni and the fall of the Sorceress called The Puce who had taken over. Yet, they managed to resist. Such resistance was doomed to fall for the power hereditary procedure of the Han clan entertained such complexities as to permit infighting. Indeed, the outcome of this battle in the plains of the Nani bog was carved out as the last. But would it bring Meng the satisfaction he desired? For countless were the men who had fallen at his blade and yet countless more he longed to slay.

The fight tarried awhile and with a few swords still ringing, General Meng was sure the gods favored him. Once more, his hand punched the air and a thunderous uproar filled the air. The outcry scared the handful of Han warriors that endured and they took to their heels aiming for the hidden flank but Meng motioned to his archers and with a sudden plunging droop of his arm, the arrows defined the insides of the fleeing foes. No Han banner or color stood aloft.

The landscape bore a hideous design with wrangled bodies littered hither and thither. The faces of his men bore the luster of joy and yet his face stood as unmoved as before but then his heart could not cage the emotion as it pumped with adrenaline in its tempo and he fought this with bated breath. He knew now that it was all over and that at his age, soon desire may leave him of further kerfuffle. But was he true to himself? Had he really defined the steep edges of loyalty and vengeance? Were his services to the realm owing to commitment or because he demanded retribution against these depraved murderers? Whatever gave him will yielded one result—victory. And for now the emperor was contented with that.

He was now to ride home. Well, the General was not equally sure if he had a home to return to. He had spent the most part of his life in dedicated servitude to the crown and had not planned a life of settlement. Perhaps he had hoped to die in battle. It seemed he was too talented to be killed by the blade of another soldier though or perhaps the Great Spirit was just looking over him. Besides, he had the best of men to fight as his side as well___

There has always been Legarius and Bai’laalyn to help me, he thought. These were two great Mages of the Guild of the Green Dragon, an order that once had great influence upon the deeds of men. But it had been disbanded long before this final battle, the mages going their separate ways and most of them meeting untimely deaths. The Great Sorceress, the Puce and her companion Lixué saw to that. Lixué was lateron declared lost. But before she went under, these two witches once had wanted to wipe out the entire line of wizards. They almost succeeded. They had managed to kill most of their rival mages in the former Guild of the Green Dragon but before the final struggle, Lixué vanished and soon the sorceress called the Puce.

Well, one way or another, the General had to forget the past and look forward to a future that looked so bleak just now. He had acquired retribution against his foes. Now he had to redeem his soul.

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