(v) The War of Darkness (Part 3)
The Coming of the Dragon Lords
It was in this moment of despair, as the courage of the Men of Thaeìn failed and the marching armies of death were bare moments away, that the salvation of Thaeìn came to be. For years, only the kingdoms of Erârün and Kiriün had made preparations for war against the armies of darkness, and it was against these two kingdoms that the Duithèn had urged Urkûl and Pulväen to first move. But these were not the only kingdoms in Thaeìn, and in the North of the land, the Dragon Lords watched as the armies of Aélûr marched across the great Bridge and against the kingdoms of the South. They remembered well how the Duithèn had attempted to corrupt them and their Dragons, and looked down upon the weaker kingdoms of the South as they slowly turned to despair under the withering influence of the Duithèn.
But as the War of Darkness took shape, they became aware that, should the southern kingdoms fall, the Hochträe and eventually their own lands would come under attack, and they were uncertain that they could resist the combined forces of the entire world against them. Having long chosen to remain isolated from the world of Men, the Dragon Lords now took to the skies, and their great, winged allies bore them hundreds of leagues to the South. They perceived that the need of Vira Weitor was direst, and descended upon the city from the North.
It had not entered the thoughts of the Duithèn that the Dragon Lords might choose to appear, and the armies of Cathaï looked up in astonishment as hundreds of winged beasts descended upon them, great jets of flame flaring before them. The Dragons were swift and fierce, and the Dragon Lords adept at guiding them. They swept down and sent flame into the ranks of Pulväen, felling hundreds of their soldiers. The great catapults were set ablaze, and the Duithèn were left abandoned as the soldiers of Cathaï fled Vira Weitor.
Despite the soldiers of Cathaï falling back, their war lords were not so easily intimidated. A Dragon could be felled by a single, well-placed arrow, and they gave orders that their army should turn back, and renew the assault. Through the fire and smoke, the armies of Cathaï, caught between the fear inspired by the Dragon Lords and the terror of their masters of Darkness, turned anew to Vira Weitor, and made a fresh assault upon the city and their defenders.
The Dragon Lords now began to fall to the arrows and poisons of Pulväen. Their soldiers sent volleys of hundreds of arrows flying into the skies; any that struck a Dragon through the heart would bring that beast crashing to the ground, almost certainly killing its rider in the process. The flame of the Dragons still brought havoc upon the soldiers of Cathaï, but their victory was far from assured.
Their appearance, however, brought new courage to the men in Vira Weitor, and they once more descended from the high towers of the city, and engaged their enemy once more in the scarred and ruined fields surrounding Vira Weitor. Many fell to the darts and poison blades, but as the hours of the battle wore on, it became clear that the Men of Thaeìn would be victorious. The Duithèn, unable to bring death upon Men directly, were now powerless in battle, and their influence on the Men of Cathaï did not give them strength enough to resist the combined onslaught of Erârün, Kiriün and the Dragon Lords. By the morning of the thirteenth day of the siege, what was left of the armies of Cathaï were fleeing across the plains, retreating from battle and seeking refuge in their fleets that remained harbored off the eastern coasts of Erârün.
Vira Weitor was thus saved, though many of its people lay dead and the city itself was in ruin. Kiriün had lost their king in the battle. The terrible damage of war had been done, and the victory was a bitter one indeed. Far more bitter yet were the Duithèn; infuriated that the Men of Cathaï had failed despite the power invested they had invested in them, they pursued the armies of Cathaï as they fled to the refuge of their fleets. Many of the great warcraft lay at in anchor below the cliffs surrounding the bay of Poralèm. Even as wounded soldiers boarded their ships, the Duithèn brought their might down upon the cliffs, cracking the stone to its foundation. The high stone walls split and tumbled, cascading upon the town of Poralèm, the bay, and foundering the ships of Cathaï. The rock spilled out to sea, filling the harbor, and so a new coast was formed by the fury of the Duithèn. Not a man of Cathaï survived, and the place became known as Falèn, the fallen cliffs.
The Appearance of Goroth
Despite the salvation they had brought to Vira Weitor and Erârün, the Dragon Lords had little patience for the sorrow of the Men of that country, and departed soon after, leaving the kingdom to grieve. They were aware that the Duithèn would now focus their entire strength on the battle between the armies of Aélûr and Daevàr, remaining king of the South. Taking to the air once more, they set a course West, their great winged beasts carrying them through the wind as fast as they could. They were, however, not faster than the Duithèn.
In the West, the battle between the army of Urkûl and that of Daevàr had drawn to a standstill; the water still flowed torrentially in the valley between them, and unable to cross, the Men of Aélûr, the skøltär and their brethren paced fiercely, and hailed the army of Thaeìn with curses and shrieks that pierced to the bone. Unable to bring the battle to their enemy, they waited, furiously.
But Aélûr had yet to bring forth their greatest force. The king of all the lands of Aélûr, the races of Men, monster, skøltar and wolf, had passed over the Bridge of Aélûr, and approached his awaiting army. Goroth, lord of darkness, was now upon the field of battle.
He was no longer what he once was, and could hardly be called Man at all. The Duithèn had imbued their strength, their might, and their power of darkness in him, and he paced forward, towering over even the Reusen, clad in terrible black armor. He carried no weapon, save a gnarled and pointed sword that extended over six feet from its hilt to the tip of its blade, and whose power drained the very light from those whom it cut down, killing not just the flesh but destroying the very soul itself. Goroth strode into the very waters of Erârün, and upon his first step, the wide river turned to black. Marching onwards, the army of Aélûr followed behind, and passed wholly through the wide, flowing and dark waters.
The army of Thaeìn were struck with horror as they watched the armies of Darkness pass into and under the now terrible and tainted waters, and emerge unscathed on the other side. Daevàr bid them stand their ground, and, trembling, they drove their spears into the ground and engaged the advancing soldiers in a great and terrible clash. Many hundreds of Aélûr fell upon the spears of Thaeìn, for but every soldier brought down, three more took his place, and the front wall of Daevàr’s army was soon overrun, and the battle was brought into their formation proper. Swords and spears clashed, and the ground trembled and was stained with the blood of thousands.
In the midst of the battle stood Goroth, untouched by the men of Thaeìn, with no guard around him bar the enormous reach of Namrâth, the sword of the ending of the world. Those caught by its blade fell to the ground, writhing as their very life was drained from even the barest of scratches. Terror flowed through the men of Thaeìn and, inspired by their fear, Goroth’s army fought all the stronger, driving the men of Thaeìn back and back into the plains of Kiriün.
As the battle raged on, the Duithèn arrived and their dark and forbidding figures in the field of battle was a final stroke in the terror of the men of Thaeìn. Despite Daevàr’s desperate orders to form an organized retreat, his soldiers, panicked, turned and fled as a whole, and the army of Darkness pursued them, cutting them down even as they ran.
It was in this bleakest moment that the Dragon Lords, racing from the East, arrived on the plains of Kiriün to find the remaining army, some three-thousand strong, being slaughtered as the fled. They perceived that the fate of Thaeìn was on the verge of falling unstoppably to the forces of darkness, they gathered their strength, and plunged upon the armies of darkness, enveloping them in flame. The men of Thaeìn, slowly taking heed that they were no longer being pursued, slowed, and turned to see the terrible clash between Dragon and man and beast. The saw that, despite the power of the Dragons and their riders, they were but holding the forces of Darkness at bay. Their strength was as much in that they did not fear the Duithèn as it was in their arrows or fire, and one by one, they were nonetheless being brought down.
Daevàr called to his troops; would they stand by and let the kingdoms of Thaeìn fall because they would not aid those who rode to theirs? The men swallowed their fear, took up their swords and spears one last time, and dashed once more into battle.
It was to be the final great battle in the War of Darkness. Slowly, the army of Aélûr was driven back, towards the blackened river and towards the North. Yet the struggle was fierce, and as much as the army of Thaeìn drove them back, more of their number fell to the weapons of Darkness. It was only when one of the Dragon Lords, a commander of great strength of mind and heart, was brought down, that the tide of the battle turned. Goroth was yet in the midst of the fray, cutting down soldier after soldier of Thaeìn, when a great black dragon passed over his head. Thrusting his sword upward, he drove it deep into the belly of the dragon. The beast and rider were driven to the ground, but the Dragon Lords were resistant the terrible dark power of Goroth, and fell, wounded, but yet living.
The commander, his body broken, lay beside his Dragon, his kin, and as Goroth drew near to finish his kill, the two rose as one for the final time, and as the Dragon Lord thrust his blade into Goroth’s side, his Dragon unleashed a great burst of flame, which enveloped Goroth. Goroth was brought to his knees, and so was greatly wounded. Dragon and Lord fell once more, and did not again rise, but the damage was done. Weakened, Goroth’s power of darkness withdrew from his army, and in turn they were now driven back yet more fiercely by the men of Thaeìn, strengthened with renewed courage.
Soon, the army of Urkûl was in full retreat, Goroth guarded by a great host of men, and leaving their dead where they lay, moved rapidly North and towards the Bridge of Aélûr. The hosts of darkness had been driven back; but the War of Darkness was not yet over.