September 22, 2007

Tears of God

Alourin stood with his company on a hill, looking down at a landscape cracked and lifeless. Like the rest of the world it had been ravaged by the Blood Wars for centuries. No harvest has been had anywhere in the world for the last decade . What started as a war over blood debts had become a war over the last morsels of food.



A single clear note blasted though the air, signalling the advance . Alourin raised his Legion shield and spear off the ground, and began to march in step with his comrades. The opposing Werrin army, replesendent in green shields with a blood red motif, mirrored the manouvre.



Even though five hundred meters separated the two armies, the battle had already been joined. In the sky above Alourin majikal energies were hurled by the crafters on both sides, each seeking to breach the others' defenses. Lights flared as spells met with shields and the mortal men below casted shifting shadows. From time to time Alourin would hear a terrible cry behind him - the death of one of Penora's crafters. For a brief moment a section of the front line would be vulnerable to enemy spells, and lightening would strike or fire would suddenly blossom - everything the enemy did in the brief moments it took for the majikal shields to be restored was deadly.



Alourin marched on with his company - whatever the crafters did, there was nothing he could do about it. He trusted Merilo, the crafter responsible for his section of the line.



At two hundred meters the arrows began to fly. Like all weapons they were imbued with spells, designed to penetrate shields and enchanted armour. Most were incinerated or deflected by defences woven by the crafters on each side, but some aided by particular powerful or novel spells found flesh.



Blood flowed, and men died.



Alourin tracked a flight of arrows as it rose and fell towards his company. When they suddenly disappeared in mid-air he assumed it was merely Merilo doing his job - so he was startled when they reappeared a few meters along their original trajectory. Realisation hit him - the enemy had teleported the arrows past the shields! There was no time to raise his shield, he prayed he wouldn't be hit. But he was.



An arrow struck him a glancing blow on the left shoulder plate and crumbled as if it had been made out of dried sand. Relief flooded over Alourin as comphrension dawned - Merilo had countered the enemy's tactic by unbinding the arrow's molecules.



Marching on with a renewed sense of invulnerability, Alourin and his company closed with the enemy. In the twisted lightscape the two armies approached each other, and the majik al contests increased in ferocity as the nobility of both sides bought their talents to the fore . Calvary could be seen dashing off, each attempting to outflank the other, the enchanted warhorses unaturally swift.



At long last neither side could contain their fear or blood lust. The battle lines surged towards each other. Alourin lead his company's charge, yelling an ancient battle cry as all around him lesser majik exploded forth from weapons and was met by charmed armour. Alourin plunged into a raging storm of light and majik.



When he judged the distance to be right, Alourin threw his spear at the oncoming enemy. It struck a Werrin infantryman 's shield. The penetration spell imbued in the spear head burst against the shield's protective enchantment. There was a flash of violet and the spear fell to the ground harmless. Undeterred Alourin drew his short sword and marked the infantryman whose shield he'd hit - that shield was now weakened. Similar scenes played out around him on both sides, with greater or less success.



Seconds later the battle lines clashed. Alourin bashed his shield against the Werrin infantryman he'd chosen earlier, and shattered the enemy's green shield. The Werrin infantryman was thrown backwards from the recoil and the transferred momentum of the impact. Alourin leapt forward and drove his sword through the man's heart. Glimpsing a flash of steel to his left, Alourin knelt and raised his shield in time to block a war hammer aimed at his head. Unexpectedly, the strike was not backed by majik, and his shield reflected the momentum of the strike back at the assailant. Alourin blindly swept his blade out horizontally and felt it pass through flesh and bone. With a cry the enemy fell on top of Alourin's shield, pushing him into the hard earth. A moment later fire exploded in the air above him and the men around him - friend and foe - caught fire. The man on top of Alourin's shield rolled off screaming, trying in vain to put out the unnatural flames which clung to him like a beast. By a stroke of luck Alourin had survived, thanks to the enemy.



Back on his feet Alourin found himself the sole survivor within a crater ten meters or so in radius. Wasting no time he rejoined the bloodbath.



Slowly, the warriors of Penora pushed back Werrin's front line troops and began to close with the heart of the Werrin army - the nobility and the crafters Soon they were the only resistance left . Desperately they held back the advance of Penora soldiers with their majik and steel, hoping that the tattered remnants of the Werrin army would regroup and retake the day.



That, of course only happens in stories . Soon the Werrin army had been cut down to a man, and the Penora king, his nobility and the crafters bought their full powers against the final Werrin defense. The fighting men moved back to make room for the majikers. Their weapons and armour no longer held any enchantments and none wished to be caught up in the lethal majikal exchanges. The green and red of Werrin was encircled by the black and silver of Penora. The combatants faced each other, readying for the end.



It became eerily quite.The Werrin gathering their energy for their final defence, and the Penora for the last strike. Alourin pushed his way to the front of the Penora line to better watch the end of the war. Blood seeped from a gash across his forehead, obscuring his vision. Absent mindedly he wiped it away with his left hand. His shield had been shattered a while back, his helmet lost. The sword in his hand did not belong to him - his own was stuck in a Werrin rider's back.



Imperceptibly, the majikal contest began. Alourin felt the hair at the back of his neck rise , and a tingling sensation travelled along his sword arm. Only when he saw the intense concentration on the faces of the majikers did he realise that a silent invisible duel was being fought. Suddenly, and without warning, the Werrin king collapsed, a dagger through his heart. Alourin saw horror dawn on the faces of the Penora majikers, and then the world disappeared into white flame.



The Werrin king had allowed himself to be sacrificed in order to cast a spell of such destructive power that it had never been contemplated before. The burning light swept out from the battle field and engulfed the planet. Women and children on both sides died as they waited for news of the battle. Forests burst into flames, and animals were incinerated where they stood. The earth convulsed and mighty waves raced inland sweeping away cities and the works of man. Volcanoes spewed forth lava and ash , and darkness spread through the sky. Life and light faded from the world.



By some fluke of majik, Alourin was still alive sustained by the same majikal energies that had killed everything else. A man, however, cannot live long without half his body . As he lay Alourin felt soothing drops of water on his face, falling from a sky which was clear blue and devoid of enchanted lights. As the droplets ran off his face and into the ground, Alourin felt at peace, as if his worries were being washed away. He wondered how it could rain with no clouds, and then it dawned on him as comfortable darkness descended on the world: it wasn't rain falling, it was the tears of God .





Cheers,

Steve