“Hold the lines! Hold the lines!” A Sagorian officer screamed, pacing frantically amongst the wavering front ranks of General Vettius’ army. His Corinthian helmet which protected both head and nose with shining steel was topped with the golden plumage that marked him as an officer. Tapping the flat of his sword hard against large square shields and shaking men by their spear arms, he screamed and shouted with fury at the soldiers, trying to ignite some semblance of ferocity. Bravery.
The horizon to the North looked like an ocean. A raging, writhing mass of crashing water. Black water. For as far as the naked eye could see, the churned and cracked earth, decayed and soiled with the approach of evil was taken up with the countless figures of twisted horrors and vile monstrosities that formed the hordes of Morcal the Defiler. The hordes of evil. These were the creatures that most of the Sagorian troops had never seen before, terrors that were unlike any other foe they had put a fight to, the denizens of the deep, endless rows and jumbled ranks of skeletal warriors and zombies. Thousand upon thousands of undead soldiers clad in wrought black armour, bony hands stripped and flayed of flesh gripping twisted swords, scythes and spears. Some were completely skeletal, bones a ruddy yellow flecked with black filth and sludge. Others still had some resemblance to humans, flesh greyed with age, limbs bloody and decomposing. Behind all those undead soldiers loomed more horrors, until the entire horizon was blotted out, eclipsed by the vast numbers of looming chaotic beasts, hundreds and thousands of demons, some winged, some coated in red scales, or black with sharp talons, snapping jaws and writhing tongues that lashed from maws of hooked fangs. It was approaching mid day, yet the sky still bled high above, red with the fury and filth the Lord of Ash and fire had sent ahead of his dark armies… Black clouds brooded angrily in the bloody sky, screaming down at the terrified armies of Sagoria with claps of rolling thunder, lashes of searing black lightning making everything seem ever darker. More dangerous. Hopeless.
The soldiers of Sagoria were afraid… Their fear was justified. General Vettius had fielded an army of twenty thousand strong. But few of these were seasoned soldiers, at least half of them were conscripts from the city, forced into the military draft and had never fought a day in their lives. In fact, most of these soldiers, even the trained ones had spent little time fighting on the Sagorian border like Crixus’ battle hardened men. But Crixus had fled back to the capital city. If he and his crack troops could not quell the tide of evil, how was this army expected to?
“Azkurg ah khaza roon!” A snarling voice roared from Morcal’s massive ranks of darkness. “ROON!” Hundreds of thousands of demonic shrieks, cries and undead roars shattered the nervous silence between the two armies, only two hundred yards apart, separated by a barren field. “ROON!” The haunting call echoed out again, like a physical manifestation of dread.
Unlike Earth, there was no material for gunpowder in Sagoria. Crossbows remained the most effective long range weapons. Thousands of spear men with the large golden square shields of Sagoria stood in anxious, tight packed regiments, leaf blade spears held high. Behind the spears stood organized conscripts and men at arms, all lightly armoured in the standard Sagorian military garb of a chain mail jerkin and light cuirass of metal strips, holding either crossbows or spears. Fear, anxiety, a nervous energy that crept up the back of the spine with ice cold fingers was spreading amongst the ranks, setting in like rot…
Behind all those rows of nervous, terrified soldiers, nestled at the back within the cavalry regiment, Victor and Endros sat upon armoured war horses beside a very anxious looking Nikodemus, creases of worry marring his face. The Leader of the Disciples looked tired and drawn, as if sleep had not come with any ease to him. Sora and Amis did not stand beside the other Disciples of the order, instead they were stationed on the left flank with General Vettius himself. Vettius troops on the far left were the finer soldiers fielded this day, the golden armoured elite of Sagoria. At the brink of darkness, in the face of overwhelming evil, Victor spared thoughts for Sora, his love. He hoped that she would besafe on the left flank, far from himself and the saving grace of Nikodemus. At least she had the Sagorian elite and the silent giant Amis by her side. She would be fine, a capable warrior and as determined as any other present this day.
“Look at these men, they are terrified.” Endros remarked gloomily from beside Victor. “Who could blame them? Twenty thousand versus seventy thousand? They are all going to die.”
Victor did not reply, he simply pulled tighter on the reigns of his majestic war-horse, keeping the nervous mare grounded in the face of overwhelming evil.
Endros’ words did nothing to ease the panic, the utter fear that was creeping in the midst of the Sagorian ranks, spreading like plague. The screaming and screeching of the demonic horde rose louder and louder, erupting into a frenzy of shouting and weapon banging, until the horizon appeared to be screaming, bellowing in fury at Sagoria, baying for blood. Desperate to bleed every Sagorian dry. “ROON! ROON! ROON!”
Suddenly the barren earth between both armies began to tremble furiously, the promise of death as thousands of metal boots started slamming into the earth… The entire mass, the swollen black horde of Morcal charged forward. It had begun…
Nikodemus turned his horse and snatched that viciously curved silver sword from his back sheath, lifting the glinting weapon aloft. “Crossbows! Give them a volley!”
“Crossbows! Crossbows! Fire!” At the command, which filtered frantically through the ranks, the spear men lining the front ranks knelt, allowing the crossbow toting men at arms behind them to step forward and unleash a cloud of deadly silver tipped bolts at the army crashing recklessly towards them. Hundreds of charging undead horrors and demons fell, screaming and snarling in pain, hitting the ground and rolling, others crumpling to trip the twisted companions surging right after them. But it did nothing to hinder or stop the tidal wave of darkness.
The air whistled with hundreds and hundreds of bolts once more, flying true to strike the enemy hard, puncturing armour, oily carapaces and decaying limbs, dropping another wave of enemies. Weapons clattered harmlessly to the ground, corpses dropping like pincushions. But once more, it was not enough. The overwhelming hordes of Morcal were but fractions away now, the Sagorian spears and shields pushing forward again, locking together and slamming into the ground, steeling for the impact.
CRASH! Suddenly the hordes of Morcal smashed like an almighty black fist, the pulsing, screaming arm of darkness piling into the front lines of the Sagorians, slamming into columns of imperial shields. The crushing impact sent bodies flying everywhere, through the air or trampled beneath boot; the din of battle already extending angrily over the battlefield as weapons clashed with vigour and the fighting truly began. This was it.
Nikodemus reared his mighty stallion and turned to face Victor and Endros with cold determination. “It is time, disciples… I will command the troops from here, I want you to lead the cavalry past the right flank of our enemy, try to draw some of them away and break their formation.”
“Yes sir.” Endros pounded his fist against the reinforced chest of his battle cuirass. But the man looked nervous, in spite of his strong words.
Victor nodded curtly. “If Morcal shows, what should we do?” It mattered little to Victor. Deep down he knew that he would engage the Lord of ash and fire if he made his foul presence known. This might well be their only chance to defeat the demon.
“Pull the cavalry out of there, your unit has speed and mobility. If Morcal presents himself then I want you both to return to me with all of the troops. Do not become embroiled in a fight. Hit and run, take a bite and flee, try to draw them into chasing you.”
Nodding his understanding, Victor wheeled on his horse, yanking his long cutlass from the scabbard strapped across his back. “Riders of Sagoria, to me! To me!” Many long years may have passed since Victor’s fated days as a pirate captain, but he was still an adept leader. It came naturally to him.
Nikodemus saluted both Victor and Endros. “Good luck, Disciples.”
Then the cavalry unit exited the Sagorian ranks, Victor and Endros at their head. Three hundred horses bore the soldiers to the right of the army, hundreds of swords shimmering in the glare of the morning sun as the unit departed. They rode east of Nikodemus’ position for about four hundred yards, turning fluidly, three hundred armoured riders and their valiant steeds circling to the left, fanning out to fifty soldiers abreast, horse hooves thundering over the earth, kicking up grit and dirt in rising clouds. The swollen right flank of Morcal’s hordes were unoccupied, screaming and urging on the monstrosities in front of them, urging them to render, to crush and kill, pushing their companions from behind as they continuously crashed and fell upon Sagorian shields. A crushing tidal wave from the deep, relentless, endless… The bodies were beginning to pile up now in the press of battle, fractions of the Sagorian shield wall splintered, demons and zombies slipping into the defending ranks, only to be met with raining sword and axe blows as men at arms spilled forward to engage them and fill the gaps. It was ruthless fighting, bloody and gritty. No Sagorian would spare any creature they felled or wounded for they would receive no mercy in turn. It was a bitter fight, a fight to the end.
“FOR SAGORIA!” Victor screamed at the top of his lungs, sword held high, gleaming, hair billowing. A visage of fury, a beacon of strength and hope… seconds later the cavalry SMASHED into the flank of the horde!