Three days had passed since the invasion began and for the most part their tricks had worked to draw the foes apart but now the humans were banding together in larger groups ignoring the small attacks. Word had reached Amaras via hawk that Navarre had smashed the army he faced and was making all haste to reach them but he feared they would not make it time. Already he had been forced to sacrifice three villages to the advancing army. “If they are busy looting and burning they are too busy to kill and hunt us.” He had snapped at his commanders when they questioned his choice. It had been a hard decision to make for it appear real some people had to remain behind and be slaughtered, but now the humans were bypassing the villages and were instead pushing on for the capital. With that knowledge Amaras had gathered all the remained of his forces, many among them were wounded to some degree or another. He looked out the faces that stood before him, elven, animal and even some fey who had jointed the fight, treants, fairies and pixies sat in the clearing watching him. Upon their faces were bleak looks, their losses had been high of the mages sent by his brother only two were still alive one badly wounded. He felt a heavy burden for the death of the young boy Alycot who had said would be safe, but when their band was trapped and overrun they had died to a man. The Blackwolfs sat nearby watching him, those few animals left standing and willing to fight with them. He stood before them now having to ask them to fight more to likely give up their lives, he was no commander, he was no leader but these people looked to him now for that guidance.
“It is said that it is darkest just before the dawn, and it is in that twilight we now find ourselves standing. We have all fought hard, we have all given everything we have to slow our foes but it is not enough. They are pushing on for the capital and if they make it they will slaughter everyone they find there. I know you are all tired and wounded but we must stand here, we must hold the line, every moment that we can delay them, ever second we can buy allows our King and his army to get that much closer to the capital to defend it. Let our faith sustain us In this hour when reason tells us that we cannot continue, that the whole of our whole lives is without meaning. “ he had once heard Miri say those words at a sermon she was holding. He had no idea what they meant but it seemed to give fire to those before him. “It is said that the future is always born in pain and suffering, That the history of war is the history of that pain and that suffering. If that is truth then let our deaths help guide our brothers and sisters to be wiser and let what is born from our pain and suffering to mature into the promise of a better world, of a better life for our people! Let them learn what we can no longer afford the mistakes of our past and let them forge a greater nation!” he threw one fist into the air and all the soilders followed suit letting out a cheer! The wolves threw back their heads and howled, while the great cats let loose roars or approval. “Each of you know your tasks, see them done and see them done well!” he yelled over the shouting and pointed to a large stone that thrust up from the earth in the clearing that they stood in. “Upon this rock we shall place the names of all who fought here, all who struggled so our nation could live that way none shall be forgotten, none shall be left behind ever again!” With that the warriors began to file by the druid who manned that rock using her magic to place each name upon it before vanishing into the forest to take their places.
Amaras and his warriors moved through the forest the sounds of battle ringing around them as his elves fought for their very lives against a superior foe. He bled from numerous sounds and of those who started the day beside him he had seen over half killed. Nil’sha limped along beside him wounded by a spear thrust in the last battle, the wielder of that spear had paid the final cost for his action. He had spent most of his spells already and things were looking bleak for his forces, so much so that he dispatched word that any who had family or chose should break and flee they would not be judged they would be not marked and his heart and both swelled and chilled when not a person had moved from their battle line. They had drawn their foes into a area of the forest where it formed several natural gullies and would keep them from brining their superior numbers against them. It was a war of attrition now and one they were fast loosing, they had been given a slight respite as the humans fell back to regroup and they were all taking what rest they could. A horn sounded from his scouts letting them their foes were advancing once more, pushing himself to his feet he readied the men near him. In but moments he heard the metal glad warriors then saw the swarming towards his line like ants. When they cloided it was the sound of thunder and in moments the fighting broke into mass chaotic melee of flashing weapons, screaming warriors and spraying blood. He was already coated in so much dried blood his clothes has stiffened and his arms felt like lead, he had lost count of how many he had slain and his mind was going numb. The humans could rotate out for fresher troops then the elves and that weariness was telling now as their line was being pushed back. It blamed that same weariness for failing to see the danger before hand, had it not been for a small sleek wolf who threw herself in the path of the blade he would likely have died. He saw her form as it dashed by him then the spray of blood and her death cry, he whirled around to face a man who was nearly a head taller than and broader across the chest then any dwarf he had ever met. The man was clad in heavy overlapping plates of metal and wielded a massive great sword with crackling runes of power on it. The man jerked the blade free and smiled a wicked smile at Amaras “I have been looking for you Beast Lord.” He said his voice bearing a strange accent. “I knew you were here and I prayed to the Living Gods I would get a chance to face you.” The melee spread around them like a living bubble as if the others were to fearful to get near the coming fight. Amaras took the moments respite to roll his neck and flex his arms “So you have found me Druchii” used the elven word for filth “No what will you do about it.”
The man laughed “Good to see you still have some fight left you boy, it will make this fun. Try to entertain me longer than a few moments.” With that he rushed in swinging the blade impossibly fast for something so large, Amaras didn’t have time to even dodge and the weapon slammed into him. Agony tore though his shoulder as the wicked blade tore deep into him, his magical protection hardly even slowing it. So strong was his foe he was thrown the ground, gritting his teeth he rolled at that man and swiped his claws out racking them over the solid metal protecting his shins. A power kick to side sent him spinning away and broke more than a few ribs, trying to catch his breath he noticed blood dripping from his mouth. He was spent, he could not fight this man, here he would die and he knew it. The man planted his sword and spat a globbet of spittle onto the injured druid “Hmpf. I had hoped for more from you but I guess that is why they call them legends huh? I hope your other family members pose more sport for me then you did…I can’t wait to see if the tales of your sisters prowess in the bed are true!”
Those words so easily said caused a flame to burst in his chest and he surged to his feet going for the man’s throat “I will see you dead before you touch my family!” he had taken his foe off guard and his claws store a deep bloody line across on cheek and scored his armor in several places. But the fury could not last and his foe was to canny to let it go on, hopping back the man slapped both of Amaras arms wide then struck fast plunging the massive blade into his stomach, he could feel the cold steel enter his body and all became a roaring white pain, jerking the weapon back his foe let him crumple to the ground like a wilted flower. The man was laughing and lifting his blade for the killing stroke and the world seemed to slow down for Amaras, he was dying he was sure of it. He felt great sadness at that thought, not so much for his death for all things die, they are dieing the day they are born his mother once told him. It was more that he had failed Navarre, his brother had always been there protecting him always shielding him when needed. This had been his once chance to shield Navarre for once, to protect his backside from the enemy and he had failed. He had failed Lorathron as well both had trusted him to hold the line to buy them time and now the enemy would win through. He didn’t even have a chance to say farewell to them and that stung him most of all. He watched the massive blade descend towards him and tears filled his eyes. Through the roaring of his heart he heard a sound a sound he heard before, the bang of a gun and then the man before him was thrown backwards in a spray of blood. Then there were streamers of magic flying through the air exploding in the enemy ranks, and booted feet, elven feet stampeding around him and he felt strong arms grab him and drag him back behind the line.
“Amaras! Brother!” he could hear the shouting of a voice and his eyes focused briefly upon the bloody face of Dekash and Navarre the later holding a smoking gun. “He is dying Navarre! I can barely feel his pulse as is!” the normally calm monk was nearly shouting in his fear for his sibling’s life. Navarre clamped one hand onto Amaras shoulder and gave him a grim smile “You held brother, you held and we are here now it is time to rest. Time to let me protect you and Kyonin again.” With that he was gone and darkness washed over him dragging him down in a place of oblivion.
He woke four days later in the palace his wounds had been treated as best they could but the magical blade that nearly took his life had vile magic that rebuffed healing magic. Nil’sha had been by his side the entire time never leaving and never allowing her vigil to slack, his found that his niece Miri’s daughter had also stayed by his side. When he woke she was there with him smiling and blotting his forehead clear, she had run quickly to fetch her mother who along with the rest of the family came to see him when give the chance. It was later in the day when the commander of the Way Watcher had come to him with the report of the battle they had fought; it was them who had been responsible for bringing Navarre’s forces as quickly as they could. Of the nearly three thousand elves who had followed him into battle only a few hundred had survived each of them selling their lives dearly.
“They are going to turn the Stone into a memorial for them Warden.” Said the young elf as he sat near his master. “All my life…I have been responsible only for myself Kalon. When I risk, I risked alone to avoid make any others pay for my mistakes or my choices. They followed me, they chose to have me guide them and I failed them.”
The young Way Watcher shook his head “You didn’t fail anyone Warden, you did only what had to be done. The universe spoke to you and you answered that call. “
Amaras looked at the man “I don’t understand Kalon, I heard no voice, I heard nothing speak to me or guide me onto this path I chose. All I heard was the death of our people, the wailing of mothers who lost their sons and daughters, the weeping of the forest for the lost souls.”
“Then you did not listen well enough Warden, The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice. The language is not Elven, or human or dwarven or goblin or aquan. It speaks in the language of hope. It speaks in the language of trust. It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion. It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul. But always, always it is the same voice. It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us and the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born. It is the small voice that says ‘We are one. No matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the world, no matter the time. We are one. No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear….We are one’ Each voice enriches us and ennobles us and each voice lost diminishes us. We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light our way to a better future. A future that we will find because of men like you Warden, men who are willing to give everything to see that future born, to see that future arrive full of life and of hope. “ he placed his hang gently on Amaras shoulder and squeezed gently. “Without you or your family we would be lost in the darkness stumbling around hoping to find the light. Each of you has acted as that light and though it make seem so dark and so bleak now you will one day help guide us into that light. Rest now my Warden, rest and let others take up the tasks for now.”