Unity Under Darkness

Mordain Thaendil’s carriage was approaching the village of Ellbinon, a relatively averagely-sized village in the north of Weissland, south west of the city of Kynair. It had been a peaceful village for a long time, but now, word had reached the Archmage that barbaric warriors had been raiding the village. Lathaon had dispatched Mordain to deal with the situation, as the past two groups sent to deal with the problem had been killed. The first group had been little more than a small military detachment, sent to guard the village; they had met a gruesome end. The second had been a group of Mordain’s Seekers; they had been taken into the mountains. Now, Mordain would deal with the situation himself.

The force Mordain had brought with him was larger than what had been sent in the past. The military forces that had been sent originally had numbered six hundred men, and they had been slaughtered. The Seekers had numbered fifty, in command of seven hundred soldiers. They too had been defeated. Mordain’s force consisted of one hundred Seekers, including ten officers, two thousand infantry and seven hundred heavy cavalry, along with one hundred men from Mordain’s Legion. Shaellana, Brae and Marr were with him also, as they were the strongest amongst his servants.

The force moved towards the village, as it was drawing near after a number of weeks of marching from Ataya. Mordain hoped to put an end to this threat quickly, but based on what had happened to the past two forces, he guessed it would take some time.

The journey dragged on, Mordain sitting in silence, alone within his carriage. As always, he was clothed in his dark robes, the runes upon them glowing faintly. His face was hidden beneath an unnatural darkness, something that could never be penetrated, no matter what looked upon it. His staff was leaned against the wall. Its smooth surface was inscribed with similar runes to those on his robes, and they too glowed with mysterious power. The raven carving that sat atop his staff was possessed of glowing eyes, and the raven itself had become Mordain’s symbol across Weissland. He was a dark and intimidating sight.

Finally, his carriage drew to a halt and the door was opened for him. He stepped out into a grim day. The weather was dismal and the smell of death filled the air, drifting down from the north and the mountains that lay there. The village looked deserted at first. It took some time to notice the eyes squinting through the gaps in the boarded windows and faces hiding through the darkened doorways.

Mordain turned to look at the force behind him. The Seekers were dressed in black leather and cloaks, along with dark masks covering their faces. They were nought but shadows. Beneath their cloaks, two short swords were sheathed through their belts, along with a selection of daggers. They were deadly practitioners of the art of stealth. The infantry were formed from a mixture of Weissland spearmen, swordsmen and archers. The heavy cavalry were armoured in chain mail and armed with a range of weaponry; some carried swords and shields, some carried maces and some carried axes. The hundred men from Mordain’s Legion were armoured in plate armour that was as dark as night, with a multitude of spikes fashioned to the metal. On their backs were draped black capes that fell to their ankles. Their skin had been painted black; they were walking darkness, almost demonic in appearance. For weapons, they carried large polearms; the shaft was perhaps five feet in length, with a large blade fixed to the end. The blade itself was about three feet in length, with the bottom half fixed to the shaft and the top half supported by nothing but the bottom half. The members of the Legion were incredibly well trained, and Mordain only called upon them when he truly had need. In Weissland, they were bested only by the Weissland Royal Guard. Now was such a time.

Shaellana approached Mordain. She was dressed in her red leather suit, along with her dark crimson cloak. Like the Seekers, she had two short swords sheathed at her sides. She wore two straps across her torso that crossed at the middle of her chest. Many daggers were held there.

“What are your orders, my Lord?” she asked.

“Have the soldiers secure a perimeter around the village. I will go to the village hall and establish my headquarters there. Find the village leader, and the highest ranking soldier, and bring them to me there.” replied Mordain.

Part 2

Mordain had not had to wait long in the town hall for Shaellana to bring him the people he wanted to speak with. The village’s leader was a woman of average height and greying hair. She was the village’s eldest mage. It was common, in the small villages scattered across Weissland’s north, for the oldest magic user to assume command of the village. She was clothed in a brown robe and hood, with numerous beads and trinkets adorning her neck and fingers.

The guard captain was a middle-aged man of great height and build. It was surprising that anything could threaten the village with a man like that in command of the defence. Still, he was only human, thought Mordain. The man was dressed in chain mail and armed with a short sword and shield.

The two bowed before Mordain before the mage spoke. “Lord Mordain, it is good that you have come. I am Marianna Rullon, the village leader. Our village has been plagued by savage warriors for almost a month now. Please, my Lord, the people cannot last much longer under these attacks.”

“I have not come here to listen to you beg for my help, mage. Since I am here, it shows that I am willing to act. Save your requests.” said Mordain coldly. “Tell me what you know of your attackers.”

“Their attacks are completely random; we’ve been unable to find any pattern in when they strike.” said the guard captain.

Mordain’s head turned slowly towards him; his message was sent by action alone.

“Forgive me, my Lord. I am Brul Rullon. Marianna is my sister. I command the-”

“I know your position, captain. Now, tell me more of these attackers.”

Brul nodded, his eyes falling to the ground as he spoke, now unable to stare into the darkness of Mordain’s hood. “The warriors wear little more than leathers and furs. They cover their bodies in grim tattoos, though we haven’t been able to identify the meaning of any of the markings. Their ranks are not organised; they fight as a mob, using larger weapons to inflict as much damage as possible. It’s difficult to take them down, but we got quite a number of them.”

“Are any of the corpses still intact?” asked Mordain.

“Yes, my Lord. Corpses still litter the plains from the attack three days ago.” Marianna replied. “I will take you there, if you wish?”

“Yes, take me there.” said Mordain. He turned to his servants. “Shaellana, accompany me. Brae, Marr, take Brul and establish a defensive perimeter around the village.”

Brae, Marr and Brul bowed before leaving the room. Mordain and Shaellana followed Marianna through the village. It was a filthy place; waste littered the streets, rotting food was scattered everywhere and the stench of death filled the air.

And then they reached the land between the village and the mountains. The dead, lifeless bodies of men, women and children lay here. Many of the adults were soldiers, though there were some who were not. It was simple enough to see that the civilians had been killed whilst struggling. Presumably, the attackers had attempted to take them captive. Marianna walked slowly past the dead, sorrow on her face. Shaellana cast her eyes around, she too showing signs of sadness. Mordain continued unaffected.

Marianna stopped over the corpse of a massive man. “This is one of the attackers, my Lord.”

Mordain stood and looked down at the dead man. His skin was tanned and rough, his hair dirty and ruffled. His body was adorned with countless tattoos, inscribed in some form of dark-green substance. It almost looked as if they had been seared onto his flesh, but then why had they retained such a strange colour? As Brul had said, the man was clothed mainly in leather armour and fur. Just beyond his outstretched hand lay a massive, yet crude, battle axe. And his eyes, they were strange beyond all reason. The iris was yellow and the pupil was blood red. It gave the man a demonic look. His build was immense, far superior to that of any ordinary human. Clearly, he was something more.

“Is this a leader, or just one of their basic warriors?” asked Mordain.

“All the warriors have appeared like this.” replied Marianna.

Mordain crouched beside the man, placing three fingertips on the man’s forehead. Slowly, he chanted words of magic in order to find the source of the man’s strange appearance and empowered build. Yet, Mordain could detect nothing. And then, suddenly, darkness flashed through his mind. He saw terrible images that caused him to recoil instantly. The corpse shot up, coming to life suddenly. Fuelled by bloodlust, the corpse crawled its way towards Mordain. Mordain, however, stood up slowly before driving his staff into the man’s shoulder and pinning him to the ground. Raising his hand, Mordain summoned his sword in mid-air, the blade facing downwards. With a simple hand movement, Mordain let the sword drop; it plunged straight through the man’s neck.

Mordain looked to Shaellana. She knew as well as he did.


Part 3

Two days had passed. No attacks had come from the mountains, and Mordain had spent much of the time within the village hall, examining the corpse of one of the brutish warriors. He could not determine what the meaning of the tattoos was, though he was sure that they were more than simple markings.

Shaellana entered abruptly. “My Lord, we are under attack. A large host of the warriors are approaching the village.”

Mordain walked with her as the two made their way to the edge of the village. From the shade cast by a tall tower, they watched the barbarous warriors rampage towards the village and the forces protecting it. Mordain had already ordered that the members of his Legion wait for his signal before moving into combat. He wanted to see how these cretins fared against less skilled warriors.

The village militia, enforced by a small number of Seekers, stood before the charging barbarians. The enemy wore furs and leather, wielding either two one-handed weapons, or one massive weapon. Either way, they looked savage and vicious.

Arrows were launched, perhaps over half a thousand, yet none of the perhaps four hundred foes fell. The arrows hit their mark, but the wounds seemed to do nothing. The men looked feral, as if driven by nothing but bloodlust.

And then, almost suddenly, the barbarians were upon the village defenders. The militia were cut down and torn apart; even the Seekers were struggling. One barbarian was stabbed, the blade plunging deep into his chest. Yet the man gripped the blade, tore it free and, in-turn, stabbed one of the defenders before decapitating his attacker.

Mordain watched with growing interest; these warriors were far from amateur. He watched as two of the barbarians broke through the defenders’ ranks and rushed towards him. Shaellana rushed forward at once; her short swords were held forth as she leapt through the air and cut both men across their necks. Their bodies fell to the ground, their strange blood soaking into the earth. Mordain stared at the blood as it flowed from the wounds; it was not red, as he had expected, but a dark shade of green. Truly, these were no ordinary creatures.

The warriors had broken through the militias’ ranks; they were rushing towards the village. Mordain raised his hand and then pointed forward. His five hundred Legion soldiers walked forward, polearms raised and ready. They stood, poised and waiting.

As the barbarians drew within range, the Legion warriors swung their weapons, killing off at least half of the barbarians in a second. They tore into the enemy, their massive blades swinging in all directions. They struck with such skill and precision; Mordain watched them closely, as it was almost like an art to him.

Three of the attackers came rushing towards Mordain. He watched them draw near, staff held ready. When they were but a few feet away, he spoke the words of magic and cracked the butt of his staff off the cold earth. Dark energy erupted about him, sending his assailants hurtling backwards. In the next instant, he slew one with a dark spell. Another fell to Mordain’s sword as he summoned it to him so that when it materialised, the blade was already through the man’s chest. The third man Mordain rushed towards. With incredible strength, he hauled the man to his feet and then broke his neck before dropping the lifeless body to the ground once more.

The battle was turning; Mordain’s Legion made quick work of the enemy. As the last of the barbarians fell, he turned to Shaellana.

“What do you see?” he asked.

“They’re not human; that much is clear. What I see, my Lord, is the taint of dark magic upon them. But it is not magic that controls them. This magic that I sense played a part in their very creation.” replied Shaellana, her eyes fixed on the corpses before her. But then, there was a change in her expression, and she took a step back.

“What is it?” asked Mordain, his voice urgent.

Shaellana pointed with a shaking hand. “They’re coming back…”

Mordain turned back towards the battlefield. The corpses slowly began to twitch and then jerk violently. Their bones contorted and twisted; they rose to fight once more, leaping upon the Legion warriors. Quite a number were taken by surprise and overwhelmed almost instantly, dragged to the ground and slaughtered.

Mordain looked to Shaellana. “Where is this power coming from? Tell me quickly!”

Shaellana only pointed.

Mordain’s vision followed her outstretched arm. He saw a lone figure, standing on the fringe of the mountains. Even from here, he could sense the magic flowing from him. And, for just a brief moment, he could have sworn he recognised the man’s powers.

Raising his staff, he conjured his magic and brought a swarm of small, dark creatures down upon the man, forcing him to flee and abandon his spells.

“Burn the bodies, quickly.” said Mordain as he turned and moved hastily back towards the village hall.

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