(iv) The War of Darkness (Part 4)
The Breaking of the Bridge of Aélûr
When Goroth and his army had crossed the black river, Daevàr did not call upon his army to pursue them further; exhausted, weakened, and still in fear, they remained behind to recover, though they did not retreat further to the South. For a month, the army of Thaeìn rested, and recovered their strength. Daevàr knew Goroth would not be so easily defeated.
The Dragon Lords remained with Daevàr, and conferred much with him, and knew also that Goroth remained yet in Thaeìn, and would not leave their lands while strength remained in his army. The Duithèn had departed the South, and the oppression of darkness was beginning to lift from the kingdoms of Erârün and Kiriün. But both Daevàr and the Dragon Lords knew that at least one final battle would come before the War of Darkness would see an end. Their own forces were greatly reduced; of their army of ten thousand, little over four thousand remained between Daevàr’s army and the forces that had driven back the pirates and soldiers of Cathaï, now regrouped.
Before long, word reached Daevàr that Goroth was indeed regrouping his forces at the mouth of the Bridge of Aélûr. The Pass of Arrakul was now blocked by Winter snowfall, and so the army of Thaeìn began the slow, final march North, around the foothills of the Reinkrag, knowing they went either to victory, or to their doom. The men of Thaeìn would return triumphant, or they would not return at all.
The Dragon Lords travelled with them, determined to make this one last stance against the Duithèn and their darkness. They still wanted little to do with the men of the South, and did not care for their retreat, which in their view had showed the cowardice of those kingdoms. They were nonetheless aware that neither they nor Daevàr’s forces could drive back Urkûl’s army, which must still stand at some ten thousand. It was several weeks’ march North to the mouth of the Bridge, and it was a frosted morning that Daevàr’s army, the Dragon Lords flying over them, crested the ridge of the last hill, and looked down upon their enemy.
Their number was beyond their expectations. Some twelve thousand men, monsters and wolves thronged in encampments spread across the plain, and indeed the Bridge itself. The greatest of their tents, a construction that appeared almost to be made of steel and stone. In it dwelt Goroth himself, unrecovered from his wound. It was likely he would not ever recover; the darkness that had taken his soul had so twisted him that his body was no longer that of mortal men.
Daevàr led his army to surround the army of Darkness one last time. Their number felt far too pitiful to drive back their enemy, but they were encouraged by the knowledge that they had done so before, outnumbered even then. They knew, also, that Goroth, filled with darkness as he was, was yet able to be defeated. If he could be wounded, he could be killed. So they believed.
In the first, grey light of morning, Daevàr’s army began to advance on the forces of Darkness, who prepared for battle and resistance. The Dragon Lords advanced before the men, clearing their way with great jets of fire, sending the Urkûl’s soldiers fleeing their heat, or burning alive where they stood. The men of Thaeìn drew ever closer, and finally the two armies met for the last time, and the air was filled with the clash of swords and the cries of battle.
What occurred next is uncertain. In the midst of battle, with men and beast battling ferociously across the fields and the Dragons advancing over the sea and the Bridge, the greatest Dragon, bearing the king of the Dragon Lords, was wounded by an arrow. Yet the Dragon was not fatally wounded, and it was in this they realized it was not an arrow of darkness, but one of the army of Thaeìn. The Dragon fell, and slid to the ground upon the very Bridge itself, crushing and scattering the soldiers of Urkûl beneath its great body. Wounded, it lay on the ground, the king of the Dragon Lords thrown from its back. He rose, unharmed, to find Goroth standing before him. A great gash showed in his side, the armor still rent, and yet he stood tall, as though he were nonetheless whole. Namrâth gleamed in his hand.
The king of the Dragon Lords drew his own sword, and faced Goroth, unafraid. He would die defending his Dragon, as he knew his Dragon may verily be dying having defended him. With a heavy stroke, he bore his blade down upon Goroth, and their swords clashed mightily. The two battled on, the king of the Dragon Lords holding his own against the great king of Darkness, until, with a deft flash of Namrâth, Goroth flung the Dragon Lord king’s sword from his hand, and plunged it through his breast.
The king fell where he stood, but his Dragon, wounded behind him, drew itself up in spite of its pain, and bore itself down upon Goroth. Teeth, fire and claw tore at the king of Darkness, and the very act itself brought destruction upon the Dragon. The death of their king and his Dragon was felt by every last Dragon Lord, and in their dying agony, they too staggered, and fell from the sky.
Yet Goroth was also on his knees, and Namrâth fell from his hand. Daevàr, who had fought his way towards the Bridge upon seeing the fall of the king of the Dragon Lords, now stood mere paces from Goroth, and saw the terrible weapon upon the ground. Goroth looked up, and knew Daevàr meant to slay him. With a terrifying scream, Goroth swore an oath to never rest, until the powers of Darkness had taken all of Erâth, should it take until the ending of the world. And Daevàr plunged his sword through Goroth.
Immediately, the army of Urkûl trembled, and as Goroth fell under a sword of Thaeìn, the power of Darkness lifted, and they were left alone, twisted with malice and hatred, but bereft of the strength imparted to them by Darkness and the Duithèn. They turned, dropped their weapons as one, and fled. Those still in Thaeìn fled past the standing soldiers of Thaeìn towards the hills and the mountains, and those on the Bridge fled West towards their land of Aélûr. But it was at the moment that the Bridge of Aélûr rent in two.
The stone of the bridge crumbled, and for half a league it slid slowly into the sea, bearing the armies of Aélûr with it. Six thousand men and creatures of Aélûr fell screaming into the waters, and drowned. The last of the Bridge cracked wide at Daevàr’s feet, and bore Goroth, king of Darkness and master of Urkûl, to the depths below. As the armies of darkness fell, the oceans turned black and poisoned, and remained thus forever more.
So the War of Darkness ended, and the men of Thaeìn had triumphed. Goroth was defeated, and the army of Urkûl disbanded, thousands of their numbers dying in the poisoned waters of the sea, and many thousands of others fleeing into the mountains of the Reinkrag, not to be seen by any man on that battlefield again. Daevàr had risen from the shame of his deceit of the king of Kiriün, and brought honor to Erârün.
Yet the War was not without its losses. Also defeated were the armies of the Dragon Lords who, at the perishing of their king, found themselves weakened, and rose at once, bearing North to return to their own country. Many fell as they travelled, and the kingdom of the Dragon Lords was forever weakened. It was not forgotten that it was an arrow of Erârün that had brought down their king, and they vowed that they should never again come to the aid of Erârün or Kiriün, should darkness fall and engulf them entirely. The Dragon Lords were yet unafraid of the Duithèn, and swore to remain loyal only to their own, unto the ending of days.
Kiriün, also, broke its ties with Erârün, not forgetting the deceit of Daevàr and the death of their king in the great city of Vira Weitor. Despite that their own soldiers had fought and died alongside those of Erârün, they selfishly held that kingdom accountable for the destruction that had been brought upon them. Daevàr was welcomed upon his return as a great hero, but in his heart knew that his line would be forever marked with shame.
So it was that the powers of darkness were defeated, and the Second Age of Erâth ended.