The Onland Campaign V

The War - Final [Death of Kings]

The Curia Urbanus, Vitruvi

A rider entered the Curia carrying a well-worn saddlebag over one shoulder. He was dusty from the road with mud caked boots from walking through the city. After presenting himself to the sarjeant of the watch, he was escorted to the Viscount of Guisares, Rennard L’Enfante, the current military governor of alsacean occupied Vitruvi. “Lord Guisares,” the rider said, bowing to the viscount, “I bring an urgent dispatch from His Majesty, the King, my lord.”

Guisares reached out and took the sealed dispatch from the rider, “Does His Majesty require an immediate reply?”

“No my lord.”

“Very well,” Guisares said, gesturing dismissively, “you are dismissed.” The viscount drew a narrow dagger from its sheath as the rider bowed again and backed away. He slipped the dagger under the wax seal and pried the orders open. He read. “Interesting,” he called to the sarjeant of the watch.

The sarjeant entered, bowed, “Lord Guisares, my lord?”

Guisares asked, “how fares Pharaoh against the Dramboreans?”

“The dramboreans took heavy casualties yesterday, my lord. The commanding general, Ten-Rax was going to keep pressure on the enemy throughout the night and conduct a full assault this morning once Pharaoh and the remainder of the Vangorean forces were in position. There have been no dispatches so far today though, my lord.”

“I see,” said the viscount, “keep me apprised. I want to know as soon as any word comes in. I will be in my quarters for the remainder of the day, but officially, I have gone hunting and am unavailable. Is that clear Sarjeant?”

“Yes, my lord. You will not be disturbed, except by me personally, with word from the Pharaoh.”

“Excellent, Sarjeant,” the viscount said as he refolded the dispatch and slipped it under his tunic.

Butchery Hill

The Vangorean infantry pressed forward on all fronts, as the chariots, lead by Pharaoh swung around to the left in an attempt to flank the Dramborean position. It would take some time to get around to the Dramborean flank without going through Teg Lax’s Coffin, but Pharaoh was not foolish enough to go that way even if it wasn’t already clogged with decimated Vangorean chariots.

Ten-Rax was more cautious this day, the lessons of the previous day and night having stung seriously. But by mid-morning, the Vangoreans and Dramboreans were engaged heavily all along the front, and the Dramboreans were being severly tested.

Aelwold’s unit was the end of the line. He almost didn’t notice the white stallion until he heard Combard’s steadfast voice calling out for the men to stand firm. He ducked one blow from a vangorean half-man, then bashed the brute with his shield and followed up with a thrust to the throat. Blood sprayed him in his already gore-crusted face and the half-man fell, clawing wildly at Aelwold’s feet.

Stepping back from the line, Aelwold shoved another soldier into the hole, and surveyed the situation as he watched Combard ride off and shouted orders. Then, he heard a voice, as clear as day through the din. It was as if it was speaking to him from within his mind.

Panic gripped him. He’d felt this sensation before, when that demon that’d possessed Mila and Felix had invaded his mind, tried to possess him! But then he recognized the voice and was filled with a sense of calm and purpose. And the voice said to him; “The time is almost upon us Aelwold. Assemble your men and be prepared. I will contact you again when you must act.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Aelwold said, not knowing whether the king could hear him or not. And he set about gathering the crossbowmen.

The Praetorian Castrum, Vitruvi

A sarjeant knocked on Viscount Guisares’ door, “Lord Guisares, it is Serjeant Julaird. I have news from Pharaoh, my lord.”

Rennard opened the door a crack, peered out, and yanked the serjeant into the chamber, quickly slammind the door behind him. “Victory? Is Drambor defeated?”

The sarjeant, somewhat startled, stammered, “Lord Guisares, sir, no, my lord. There was an accident, my lord! The berserks in the Vangorean camp went mad and slaughtered most of 1st and 2nd corps. Thankfully, Pharaoh had not yet arrived, so 3rd corps was not effected.”

“What? roared Guisares, “We are running out of time. I can’t sit on this forever!”

“My Lord? I’m not sure I understand, my lord” the serjeant said.

“Yes, of course. Once I return from hunting, so to speak, I will receive a dispatch from the King. Only you and I know that I’ve already read that dispatch. His Majesty made it explicitly clear, that he would be most greatly displeased if the instructions for Pharaoh within the dispatch be delivered before Drambor’s army is obliterated.”

The serjeant understood, “I see, so you must be indisposed so as to postpone delivery until after the battle is finished, my lord.”

“Yes, exactly Serjeant. And I fear that if Pharaoh doesn’t hurry up, his failure shall land my head on the block!” Guisares groaned.

The Temple of Tiamat, Vangor

The ritual would not take long and though the vizier longed to be elsewhere, he felt that a sacrifice was necessary at a time like this. So even though he longed to be done here as quickly as possible and to be back where he could keep an eye on things, he knew in his heart that this was exactly where he must be. He had to give the goddess her due if he wished for her favor in the hours to come.

The vizier bowed as the high priest lay the goat on the altar. The animal was slaughtered and its blood poured in a bowl and placed before the goddess. Prayers were offered, the priest paid, and the vizier was at last free. He rose and thanked the high priest, and then slithered back to his sanctum as quickly as his snake-belly would carry him.

Butchery Hill

The slaughter was like nothing Aelwold had seen before in his more than thirty years of service in the army. Not even yesterday’s carnage compared to today’s. Blood was everywhere, covered everything. He thought that if he looked up at the sky that instead of blue, it too, like everything else, would be red.

And then the voice said, “It is time.”

The Vizier’s Palace, Vangor

The vizier peered into the crystal ball. What a battle! Both sides had lost countless men. So many bodies littered the hillside that it looked, from his perspective high in the sky above the fighting, that the hill were not a hill at all, but a hideously monstrous mound of corpses.

The vizier saw the chariots approaching the Dramborean flank. He saw Pharaoh in his chariot. He saw six men loading stubby looking arrows into strange bow-like contraptions.

“It is time,” the vizier said, and began casting a spell.

Somewhere Dark and Far Away

I can feel it! Bring me the final scroll! Now!

“Yes master,” sniveled the slime covered scaley runt of a creature, “As master commands!” It handed over the black scroll, cracked its knuckles and while licking its lips with its slimy forked tongue begged, “Master, may I drinks the blood whens you are finished?”

“No, you worthless bag of dung.” He hit the runt backhanded and the thing squished as it hit the wall with a disturbing splat.

“It is time,” the master said, and began to read the scroll.

The Praetorian Castrum, Vitruvi

The sarjeant reported, “Lord Guisares, reports indicate that the battle continues. But both sides have suffered massive casualties. If our scout’s reports are correct, fewer than one man in twenty on either side still stands, my lord.”

The viscount smiled, “Good, Serjeant. Even in the unlikely event that Drambor wins the day, they won’t have the strength to besiege the city. In fact it sounds like they may not even be able to raise an army for some years.”

“Aye, my lord,” agreed the serjeant.

“Very well then, it is time. Send Pharaoh the dispatch.”

The Vizier’s Palace, Vangor

The vizier continued to watch as Pharaoh drew closer and the crossbowmen aimed carefully. He finished his spell as three half-men suddenly went berserk without cause. They crashed through the lines and began slaughtering the crossbowmen.

Butchery Hill

Aelwold watched in horror. All six crossbowmen went down in the span of a few heartbeats. Pharaoh’s chariot was just coming into view. But soon he would be gone.

Aelwold ignored the berserks and dove for one of the abandoned crossbows. He raised it, turned toward the chariots, saw the abomination wearing a crown; that thing must be Pharaoh!

He’d seen purebloods before, so they didn’t frighten him. But this thing was something almost entirely different. It was massive, at least ten feet tall, even with half of its body coiled in the bottom of the chariot. And it was almost entirely snake; only its head being that of a human.

“It is time,” he thought, took a deep breath and wham! The half-man’s axe came down on his back shattering a dozen ribs and puncturing Aelwold’s right lung. He spit up blood as the half-man jerked at the axe, trying to pry it loose for another swing.

The Dark Place

The master finished reading the scroll and smiled as magical energies surged through him. All the force of the ley line coursed through him and with his mind, he willed that energy towards his desired target.

The Vizier’s Palace, Vangor

The vizier gasped, “No! What is happening?”

Butchery Hill

Suddenly, the jerking stopped. Aelwold could not feel his legs. But his lungs burned with such intensity that he could feel consciousness slipping away. He coughed up more blood as he grappled for one of the crossbows. Got it! Something strange about that bolt, though, some kind of green goo on the tip?

Pharaoh was starting to turn away. Just a second left! He let loose his bolt.

And everything went black.

The Vizier’s Palace, Vangor

Suddenly an aged knight on a white stallion came into view. He gutted one berserk on his lance and leapt from the saddle, while the warhorse flew into a rage of whirling, spinning and bucking that nearly matched the ferocity of the berserks!

As the knight squared off with the third berserk, the vizier saw one of the dramborean soldiers, half-dead, with a great axe protruding from his back, reach for a crossbow and fire.

The bolt hit Pharaoh in the neck!

The vizier’s heart skipped a beat and then a thin reptilian smile spread across his lips. Pharaoh would be dead in minutes! First the poison would paralyze him, then his breathing would slow and stop, and he would begin to suffocate while still conscious and finally, mercifully, his heart would stop and Pharaoh would be dead!

Butchery Hill

Combard glanced down at the blood running out of the wound in his side. He looked over at Aelwold, and pried loose the axe. The blood was flowing quickly from Combard’s side and he became dizzy, dropping to his knees. Then, through force of will, he raised his torso up, knelt in prayer to Onn and lay his hands on Aelwold’s wound.

The Vizier’s Palace, Vangor

The vizier left his sanctum and went to seek out the prince. “Pharaoh is dead,” he thought. “Long live Pharaoh.” He smiled again, then put on a somber façade, “well maybe not too long.”

The Praetorian Castrum, Vitruvi

It started as a rumbling. What is that? Thought the viscount. Then with sudden and violent force, the stone floor beneath his feet rose twelve feet and then, just as suddenly dropped forty. This, in and of itself did not kill Rennard L’Enfante, Viscount of Guisares; it was the ceiling above him dropping fifty and the floor above that dropping sixty, that crushed him like an ant under a plow-horse’s hoof. In an instant, a third of the occupying alsacean force, those off duty and asleep at the Castrum joined Guisares in death.

The Excavation Site, Outside Vitruvi

But the Praetorian Castrum was not the epicenter of the quake. Outside the city, the former archaeological site had become a fountain of magma. Black smoke rose in the air and gray ash rained down and darkness fell over the city as the smoke blotted out the sun.

Butchery Hill

That was intense! Aelwold thought.

He sat back up. The fighting had pretty much stopped after the explosion. Soldiers on both sides looked around with awe and fear at the firey jet of magma a few miles away. The King, beside him looked dead. Funny, he thought he had been mortally wounded. Nah, couldn’t be. He felt fine now. Although maybe, he thought, I am dead, and this is the afterlife.

Then the earth shook again. Nah, this can’t be the afterlife. This isn’t at all like what the afterlife is supposed to be like. Faithful believers of Onn, like him, are supposed to go up above the sky, to a nice place, to await the final battle with Ahriman. And if he were dead, he’d died in the service of Onn, carrying out Onn’s will, so there was one thing Aelwold was sure of and that was that he hadn’t died and gone down to the other place.

Ergo, if he wasn’t up above and he wasn’t down below he had to still be alive.

Then the earth shook again, and continued to shake. Soldiers from both sides panicked and bolted in all directions while Aelwold continued to ponder his existence; “unless, there are just so many dead folk that there’s a backlog getting souls to their proper destination…

The Excavation Site (Volcano)

From the rapidly enlarging crater of the volcano, a vast scaley head arose. Two leathery eyelids winked open revealing serpentine eyeballs, each the size of a large house. Then a mile-long stretch of the Vitruvean highlands rose up a half-mile into the sky and was shook loose from the dragon’s back like a wet dog shaking the water from his coat. Vast batlike wings snapped open, and Ojisandemo, father of all dragons lifted into the air.

Hours Later, Near Ha’th

Rouie pointed and grunted.

Fri-Wynn looked up. “Damn, Roo! That’s a big-ass dragon. Its gotta be ten, maybe twenty times the size of that one we killed on the positive energy plane!”

Rouezue nodded in agreement, “Uh huh. More that two. That’s for sure.”

“Come on Roo, lets get inside before Tanis sees it. He’ll want to go kill it or something.” The pair entered the giant spider’s belly and sealed the door tightly behind them.

As Fri-Wynn walked onto the bridge, Airteax asked if everything was all clear. “Yep,” Fri-Wynn responded. “Lets get otta here. I’m sick of this time!”

“Now you’re sure you can control this thing Tanis?” Ten-Eyeck asked.

Tanis replied, “Um, no, this thing’s brain is a thousand times more alien as anything I’ve ever probed. Controling it ain’t gonna be as easy as vomiting up a molten sword or anything.

“That’s not very reassuring, Tanis,” Yukkie chided.

“Nope, but do you got a better idea?” Tanis responded.

“Nope,” Fri-Wynn said, so kick lets go already. Kick this sucker in the id and make her take us to the year 2499. I got a wedding to go to.”

“You’re not marrying that Mila chick are you Fri-Wynn?” Airteax asked.

“Shit no!” Fri-Wynn said, “I’m keeping her in the box until she pops out my heir and then I’ll figure out where to get rid of her. That yappy twat is already getting on my nerves with all her wining about how bitchy her girlfriend turned out to be and how that Brom dude fucked her over and how cursed her life turned out to be. I mean shit, man, the only way to shut her up is to stick something in her mouth!”

While pulling out a stiletto, “I could kill her for you,” Drake interjected, “but you’d have to let me have her body when she’s dead.”

“No!” Tanis and Yukkie barked in unison.

“You never want to let me have any fun,” Drake grumbled as he twirled his dagger.

“Anyway,” Fri-Wynn continued, “Lets get the heck otta here Tanis and get you married before we get caught up in some other bullshit adventure.”

“All right, here goes!”

The End of Onland IV


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