The guard was out of breath as he reached the end of the long dark corridor, a heavy torch clutched in his hand to light the way ahead. He stopped, panting heavily and banged on a small black door, “Lady Madelia, the Dark lord has requested your presence in the throne room” the door suddenly flew open, sending a sharp gust of air flying down the corridor that caused the guards torch to extinguish, followed by Madelia’s sharp shadow emerging from the darkness.
“Has he now?” She said mockingly, “Well then we had better hurry up to his majesty, hadn’t we.”
“Y...yes your ladyship” said the guard rather nervously. Madelia disintegrated into a thick black fog then suddenly disappeared and the guard was left alone in the dark corridor and had to make the long dark journey through the castle alone still carrying his heavy torch to shield him from walking in to the scolding hot walls and pitch black nothingness.
Madelia’s smoky shroud appeared in the doorway of the throne room and slowly pieced itself back together until Madelia's form was clearly visible in the doorway.
“You summoned me my lord” she spat, strolling onto the depressing space.
“Oh yes so I did” a grimace formed in the shadow of Madelia's face but it soon vanished when she noticed the general staring blankly at her from the other side of a long dark iron table.
“May I enquire as to what is going on my lord?” she said as respectfully as she could
“You may” he replied
“Well?” She said impatiently. Merdock rose swiftly from his chair by the window and walked over to the table and lent on it.
“The rebels in the south are massing inside the borders of Esiris, we predict they are foolish enough to be forming an army, in a futile attempt to challenge me!”
“Well my lord is this not good news? Is this not the opportunity we have been waiting for? A real reason to strike and wipe out the rebels that have opposed us, you, for so long”
“Of course,” a smile of deepest pleasure and satisfaction spread across her face, “They will not stand a chance against the Morgantian army.”
“Of course not sire”
“Madelia, send a scout to scope out the enemies numbers and weapons, we must prepare for war, however brief it may be.” Before Madelia could leave to fulfill her errand, Merdock produced a piece of parchment and a gold quill and scribbled down a letter to be delivered by the scout and handed it to Madelia. The haunting woman promptly disappeared and reappeared in the aviary, she approached the largest of the wrought iron cages and withdrew a large, sleek black bird with curved sharp talons that tried to dig into her arm as she held it, red tips to the feathers under its wings and tail feathers and an evil polished beak, for ripping open flesh. Madelia whispered some words to the Mighty Nightmare; the official species name, handed it the scroll which it grabbed in its talons, the bird bowed its head, took off out the arched window and disappeared into the darkness.
They were standing around the huge wooden table examining the countless old maps and documents Elera had found in the Elders’ library beneath the cobalt blue tent, when Fredrich saw the great black bird swoop through the camp and fly towards them, it landed, scroll in talon on top of the table and stood like a terrifying soldier fulfilling its mission, it glared menacingly at Elera when she removed the message but it did not flinch or move to attack.
“I the dark lord and master of Lardinia, lord Merdock hereby summon you and your forces to the field of battle. When the next sun rises the Morgantian army will wipe your filth from the face of this world.” When she finished she looked up at the others staring at her.
“So what now?” asked Haylie. A smile spread around the circle of people.
“Assemble the ranks, every soldier must be ready for battle, and inform Esiris we will need her catapults after all, at dawn we go to war” Elera said proudly. Suddenly the camp was a hive of activity, soldiers were making final amendments to their armour, riders were preparing their horses, Esiris’ king Baradon had provided Killga and Elera with their own armour: silver gauntlets, a chain mail dress and an emerald green tunic covered in engraved silver plates as hard as dragon scales designed to deflect an arrow, along with silver knee and shoulder plates. He had also gifted a sword to Killga, with a diamond encrusted handle and elven writing engraved along the blade.
I am the brightest star in the sky,
The gem in the coal mine,
The sunshine in a rain drop,
The twinkle in your eye.
The Lardinia rebel army continued to prepare throughout the night and on until the sun rose above the horizon, and spread long spindly shadows across the battle ground. The ranks were formed, the cavalry lined up and Elera, Haylie, Ringmore, Killga, Fredrich and General Hayger mounted their horses and lead the army, marching towards the battle ground, but the enemy was nowhere to be seen.
“Where are they? The message said dawn” asked Haylie nervously.
“I don’t know there could be any number of reasons and honestly I don't like most of them” replied Elera
“Wait what’s that coming out of the fog?” Ringmore announced pointing into the fog before them. A large black line had appeared through the thick white fog and suddenly they heard a deafening noise drifting from the opposite end of the battle field, like someone had broken into a hornets nest, or a cliff had eroded and broken away somewhere. The great Morgantian army had arrived.
“This is it?” Haylie said as she looked beside her at her friends
“Well this is the beginning of it” Ringmore replied sarcastically, trying to reassure her.
“Hay just think back to the first day we met on that hill, you were so unsure and had so many questions. Now just look at you, dressed in Palistarian armour at the head of the rebel armies about to go to battle, I’m sure you still have as many questions as you did that short time ago but still, I’m impressed and there's not been many people who have been able to do that” Elera encouraged her.
“Yeah you’re right; I was terrified, I mean I’m in another world like an other dimension, but you were so encouraging, you made me believe in what courage I had in me and helped me double it; so, bring it on!” She cheered for herself and her epic journey with her friends. Fredrich spun his horse around, turned from the enemy and faced the twenty thousand pairs of eyes that stood staring at him, the troops that had rallied to his flag.
“Soldiers, you have gathered here today, all of you under one banner; the banner of hope and freedom, and you will fight together today because you and I believe that there is some hope left for us in this good world, that hope is what will ensure our victory; swords will be broken and shields splintered, but your greatest weapon is one they cannot strip you, your strength and courage, without these you can not hope to come through victorious, so today we stand by our friends and allies to vanquish evil and forever banish it from our lands, today you fight for goodness, hope and freedom.” With his final words a great roar of cheers rose from the rebel army, a noise so great, so full of their hope that it drowned out the clamour of the enemy and smothered it completely. Killga leaned towards Fredrich and said,
“Your father would be proud” he smiled and hoped that he had done his father proud and earned his respect.
Sensing it was time, Fredrich, Haylie and Ringmore urged their horses into a canter and rode across to the very centre of the expanse of land where they were to fight; as they did so, Merdock’s general and several other soldiers mirrored their actions and joined them half way between the two great armies.
“So you have come to offer terms how cowardice” barked the general.
“Only this” replied Fredrich, “withdraw your army behind the border and remain there, no one has to die here today.”
“Wrong” the general screamed, “the general of the Morgantian army does not negotiate with the likes of you, puny prince” he laughed at his own snide comment.
“If you do not retreat, of whoever dies here today you will certainly be among them” Haylie said, confidence and hatred flowing through her.
“You are outnumbered two to one, thirty thousand to twenty thousand men, how can you hope to prevail?”
“Well that’s just something you’ll never understand general” Fredrich answered
“So be it, prepare your troops for the end” he sneered.
“We will” Fredrich said sarcastically, determined to end this for both sides. The two groups departed and raced back to the front lines of their armies.
When they returned to the head of the rebel army, Fredrich gave Elera and General Hayger the signal to move their battalion to Sherome City. Elera and Hayger charged off towards the end of the line taking their men with them they rode off towards the abandoned city. Once they had disappeared into the fog, Haylie, Fredrich, Ringmore and Killga came and stood side by side and gave each other one last reassuring glance before Fredrich sounded the charge.
He drew his sword and shouted from somewhere deep within him, “For freedom and for Lardinia” the four of them charged forward, followed closely by the front row of soldiers, the second, third and soon thousands upon thousands of soldiers, archers and riders were pouring onto the battle field. On the other side of the empty plane, Merdock’s army emptied out onto the space in front of them, much less organised than the rebel troops but twice as frightening, their mass rusty, twisted armour made them look like one great beast sliding over the grass, though the mist.
Suddenly from out of nowhere the five elders appeared joining the front line in the charge against the Morgantian army.
"Mind if we cut in here?" Adlem joked to Haylie as they sped towards the enemy.
"Not at all" The rebel leaders replied. There was a moment of silence and all Haylie could hear was her own heart beating double time beneath her armour clad chest, then as the two lines collided the silence was broken by the ring of swords and the clash of wood and steel. Arrows flew over head, spears whistled past, and large boulders, catapulted from Esiris plummeted to the ground taking out vast numbers of soldiers in one muffled thud. Haylie drew her sword and swung it as Ringmore had shown her and hit a soldier in the back of the head, she felt the mystical gold metal slice through his thick helmet and the soldier fell, rigid upon the ground. She didn’t look back to see if he had fallen but told herself that nothing could have survived that kind of hit. Ringmore had also begun cutting down anything that moved in front of him as had Killga and Fredrich. Soon the rebel army had punched a reasonably large dent into the ranks of the enemy’s army.
Meanwhile in Sherome City, Elera and general Hayger had formed ranks on the edge of the city, using the fog and the ruins as cover, Elera sounded the charge on the second half of the unsuspecting mass of soldiers and, taking them by surprise they wiped out a hundred men or so on entry causing the Morgantians to panic while trying to fight an army on two fronts . Suddenly a huge shadow crossed the battle field, Dracon was sweeping his tail back and forth throwing soldiers this way and that, bombarding whole battalions with fireballs. Then a huge wave of arrows originating from the rear of the enemy fell upon the rebels and caused chaos; Ringmore’s horse Basuto was shot by several arrows and almost crushed Ringmore as he fell to the bloodstained ground. Stumbling to his feet, he began a frantic search of the battle in attempt to find Haylie and get her and Elera to Sherome to begin the next stage of the attack, finally he caught up with Haylie who's soldiers had surrounded a large group of Morgantians.
"Need a lift?" Haylie shouted down to Ringmore, noticing him tugging on her syrups.
"How nice of you to offer!" He grasped her hand and she hauled him up onto the saddle behind her, it took them quite a while to find Elera but eventually they found her breaking the lines of a few of the untouched ranks, they cantered over to her, jumping over soldiers, horses and dodging stray boulders as they went.
“Elera, it's time” Haylie screamed over the deafening din, Elera nodded in understanding and the three of them galloped across the battle field towards the ruins of Sherome.