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Assault on the Demon Wood

As Fore scrambled to do as he was told, tripping over his blue Overseer's cloak, Nethen walked past him and made his way toward Sid and Antalin, flanked by his intimidating escort. In the distance he could hear the deep bellowing of a strange horn.

"Where is the Eldest?" Nethen asked as he approached his shaken peers.

"He has gone into the forest, but we have your orders."

Detric sat atop his Farlahorse on the crest of a small hill next to his god king Gragoor and placed the Alkon horn once again to his lips. The deep boom signalled the regroup point for what was left of their forces.

Detric had always been the most faithful and zealous to the brute god, but now, running his finger along the inside of the iron collar that signified his status, Detric's faith in Gragoor was failing.

It was obvious to Detric now that the assault had been poorly planed. Their army had splintered once inside the forest, the fire of greed to great to be quenched by discipline, and than the discovery of the power wielded by their enemies, a power of which Gragoor had told them nothing, it was beginning to cause Detric's hope and faith to fade. Now Gragoor and his hundred or so personal guards were alone, though they could hear the distant cries of their dying and injured comrades.

Again Detric placed the horn to his lips and blew, but as he waited what hope he had left began to flow out of him.

Though there may be many still alive, the men were too high on blood lust and greed to fallow orders.

Without strength in numbers their demon, fire wielding, adversaries would pick them off one by one until none were left.

Desperate, he sounded the horn once more.

"The battle is lost, we should return to Yuri Nai", said Galin, another of Gragoor's personal body guards, fingering his collar nervously.

"Silence fool", Gragoor roared, the rage in his eyes bordering on madness. "Do you not see the green towers in the distance; we are within arms reach of destiny. I will not turn aside so close to my goal."

"But god king---" Galin continued.

Galin's body slumped forward in its saddle as his head toppled from its high perch and fell to the ground.

"We will not turn away, we will charge forward until we have the head of the red she-devil", Gragoor said as he re-sheathed his razor sharp blade. "I will take the life of any coward who ..."

Gragoor stopped mid-sentence and stared into the distance. Bemused Detric fallowed his line of sight until his gaze rested on a lone demon standing on a hill some three hundred paces away in the direction of the green towers. His arms and fine white cloak were stained with blood, and in his hands was the sword of a fallen brute.

"Do not slow, do not turn aside, this one shall be the next to die", Gragoor bellowed as he led the charge towards the outnumbered foe.

As Detric fallowed close behind he placed the horn to his lips once more.

Hanne wept, cowering in his hiding place, his crimson cloak wrapped tightly around him. Buka, his Guardian, was dead, and his friend Val, the tainted brutes had killed them all. Now there were almost a hundred of them less than a stones throw away mounted on giant, four-legged monsters. Their leader, a giant covered in the bones of his own kind was making the indistinguishable brute noises the Guardians used for communication in a heated fashion.

Without warning the terrifying brute drew a long slender tool from its belt and decapitated one of his followers before returning to his angry tirade. Hanne strained to keep from vomiting as he pressed his face into the cool dirt.

Suddenly terror seized Hanne as he heard the group begin to move, but after a moment he realized that they were not moving towards him and his fear subsided.

Tentatively Hanne raised his head from the bushes to see what was happening and his heart sank. The Eldest was standing alone against the brute horde, one of their killing tools in his hands.

A horn was blown as the brutes drew their own brutal tools in unison.

Just as the horde was about to trample his beloved Eldest brother Hanne once again buried his tearstained face in the dirt and his ears were met with cries, but they were not the cries of the Eldest, they were the cries of dying brutes and the screams of their mounts.

Hanne lifted his head once more and his eyes widened at the spectacle set before him. The Eldest danced in the midst of his enemies, the strange tool a part of him as he relieved the brutes of their lives, all the while moving to quickly to be touched by a retributive strike. The furry of his attack was so intense that within minutes the brute leader had fallen and the survivors were fleeing for their lives, but the Eldest would not spare them. Riding on the wings of Qi the Eldest leaped from mount to mount killing mount and rider indiscriminately until only one remained.

The remaining brute fled in terror as it placed a strange horn to its lips and blew, but the call was cut short as the mount was thrown out from under him by a wave of razor sharp Qi. The Eldest lifted the surviving brute off the ground on a pillow of Qi and casually approached his struggling captive.

When he was close enough the Eldest placed his hand on the brow of the brute and closed his eyes in concentration. After a moment the brute's neck violently twisted in an unnatural way and it's massive frame went limp and fell to the ground dead.

Hanne jumped to his feet with hope in his eyes and elation in his voice.

"Blessed Mother, Eldest that was amazing. How did you know how to use their strange tools? Could you teach me?"

Silently the Eldest approached Hanne, his eyes a mixture of anger and sadness.

"No", he said bluntly as he slid the strange tool into Hanne's heart.

Grendel ran as fast as his legs would carry him, desperate to leave this accursed forest before the demon fires claimed him. For a moment Grendel had feared that there was no escape, but then Iruk, Gragoor's son had come into the midst of them bearing his fathers sword and ordered the retreat. Now he, and almost three hundred others fled for their lives, franticly attempting to leave the silver trees behind them.

Grendel could hear the cries, as the stragglers were picked off by their red cloaked pursuers. He once again quickened his pace.

Grendel ran until his lungs burned and his hands shook, and just when he and his comrades were about fall over from exhaustion their persistent shadows broke of their pursuit. Confused but elated Grendel stumbled forward, fallowing the lead of Iruk, anxious to make it beyond the wall of bordering trees.

Grendel fallowed Iruk to the hole in the forest's intimidating defences and on the other side sprinted for the distant familiar tree line that meant home and safety.

As the three hundred made their mad dash Grendel looked back for a moment and saw a demon, in a white bloodstained cloak standing in the gap in the cursed forest's wall. It looked like he was laughing.

Suddenly the demon formed a white hot spear from thin air and cast it at the crowd. It killed three before striking the ground and instantly dissipating. Another followed, and another, and another, this one so close that the heat from it burned Grendel's face.

Gathering his resolve Grendel tore his gaze away, put his head down, and ran for safety.

"Leave us", the Mother said sharply and Antalin, Fore, wearing the blue cloak of his recently deceased superior, and the injured Sid vacated the audience chamber leaving only the Mother and the Eldest behind. "I want to know what actually happened Heton. Were you able to delve into one of their minds?"

"Yes Shea, they were the descendants of Dunmur and his escaped clan. They had come here to claim riches and glory. Eleven hundred entered the forest, less than three hundred escaped. I could see the terror in their eyes, they will never return."

"I don't care", the Mother snapped. "They violated the sanctity of my forest and almost ruined everything, can you imagine what would have happened if one of the children had followed them far enough to see the outside, everything I have worked for, for thousands of years would have come crashing down. I want them to pay."

"Yes Shea, I will patrol the adjacent forests until I find them. They will pay."

"Good, what damages did we sustain?"

"Almost two hundred Hunters were lost and something like forty Gardeners, the losses to Overseers and brutes were minimal, with the exception of poor Nethen, that one was a son I could be proud of ... Damage to the forest was also minimal, the Gardeners are already repairing it, and the Hunters are already incinerating the bodies of the dead. As far as our control is concerned, I think this incident has only strengthened the children's fear of the outside, everything seems to be working to our advantage."

"Good", the Mother replied with a slight smile.

Young Urnik smiled as his older brother Iruk stood on the table in the centre of the great hall and once again concluded the song.

"Demon's hearts and knees did kneel
As Gragoor roared and bared his steel
Against blighted magic with blade of woe
The god king fell upon his crimson foe

Through seed of rage and will of power
The battle wrought betwixt emerald towers
Did rise to the heavens and scatter throughout
The gods of the skies rising banner and shout

Answered the call of the god and red queen
And a fray was commenced the likes of which has never been seen
We messengers, given a charge of great worth
Returned to our own bearing witness and mirth

To speak of the coming of Gragoor's return
When riches shall flow and the forest shall burn
And the god king shall come holding stars in one hand
In the other the head of the red queen of the damned."

The conclusion of the song was met with thunderous cheers, and Urnik stepped forward to congratulate his older brother.



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© S. Michael Pitt 2009



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