Now that I’ve finished posting the interviews with the other authors for the Battle of Ebulon… I thought I would go ahead and post the entirety of the entry point I wrote for the collaboration. Hope you enjoy it!
I originally planned to post the entire short story in one go today, but then thought that might be a bit long for one post, so I’ll be breaking it up between now and Saturday to make the posts a bit shorter/easier to read.
DISCLAIMER AND WORD TO THE WISE: there are a few minor PLOT SPOILERS contained within the story, so read at your own risk. Also, the character who shows up at the end: Joshua, is NOT my creation. He belongs to SKN Hammerstone, and she was kind enough to lend him to me in a bit of a cross-over between our stories (because I thought it would be fun, and it was). In her world, he is the Angel of Death. In my world… well…
ENTRY POINT 9
The man stood before him, a plea in his eyes that could not be ignored. His shoulders were broad and strong, but at the moment they drooped pathetically as though he had been carrying a weight that was far too heavy for far too long.
“Please,” he began, his tone imploring, “please, we cannot hold any longer. We beg your aid. If there are any heroes left, they are desperately needed here at Ebulon.”
Brant awoke. For a moment, he was unsure of what had woken him. He sat up in bed, shaking off the fog of sleep. Dylanna sat up as well. She squinted at him in the Toreth light. He gazed at her, his eyes tracing the lines of her face and noting how the silvery beams of the Toreth glinted in his wife’s dark hair.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“A strange dream…” Brant shook his head, “it was probably nothing.”
“Me too,” she admitted.
“I was being asked for help…”
Dylanna stared at him oddly. “Was it by a man standing in the snow, dressed strangely in furs and armor, with a battered crown on his head?”
He stared at her. “How could you possibly know that?”
“Was he in a place called Ebulon?”
Brant nodded slowly. “It wasn’t just a dream, was it?”
They dressed quickly, adorning themselves by unspoken agreement in warm clothes and battle-armor. They spared but a moment to retrieve their weapons. Brant always kept the Fang Blade sharp, and he buckled it to his waist now as Dylanna strapped a simple knife to her wrist and slung a bow and quiver over her shoulder. He hoped she wouldn’t need either, magic was her primary weapon.
They raced through the halls of the palace, to the secret tunnels leading to the depths of the slumbering volcano beside which the castle was built. In the center of the concealed chasm rested the greatest gift of magic their world had ever seen. Brant and Dylanna stood before it, hesitating.
“Send out the call,” Dylanna urged. “Even now we may be too late.”
“We don’t even know where we’re going,” Brant replied. “What if…?”
He felt the cry reverberate once more inside his head. It was desperate, pleading. Whoever this King Yadi was, he sounded sincere. As he reached out to touch Yorien’s Hand once more, information poured into his mind. Ebulon. The last human kingdom in its world. Besieged by a monstrous army of creatures… Orcs… whatever those were. The city was on the brink of falling. If nobody came…
Brant grasped hold of the fallen star more tightly. Yorien’s Hand blazed with a brilliant, blinding light as Brant transmitted the cry for help across his kingdom. He knew, without understanding how, that the star would take them to Ebulon, as well as any others who answered the call. He poured his will into the star and felt a strange freezing sensation wash over him. The sensation passed, though the chill in the air remained.
When Brant opened his eyes he found himself beneath a forest blanketed deep in snow. It was night here, as well. Dylanna stood next to him. He breathed a sigh of relief that Yorien’s Hand had brought them here safely.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She was silent for a moment, a look of deep concentration creasing her forehead. She nodded. “Perfectly. My magic is still available to me.”
The barren branches of the forest above them creaked in the wind. Brant breathed in deeply, the others would be here soon. He knew his people, they would answer the call. A soft noise made him spin around, sword drawn in one fluid motion. A man stepped out from the shadows. As his face came into view Brant lowered his blade, eyes wide in stunned disbelief.
The man’s face softened. “It’s me, little brother. Answering the call.”
“But… you… how is this possible?”
“A gift from an old friend of yours.”
“You’ve spoken with him? Nobody has heard from him in years.”
“He’s the one who sent me here. Said it was his chance to finally ‘right a great wrong’ or something. Do you have any idea what he was talking about?”
Brant shook his head numbly. “No.”
Ky cocked an eyebrow. There was a pause, then Brant strode towards Ky, a broad grin spreading across his face as he threw his arms around his brother, wrapping him in a hug. They both laughed exultantly. A gust of wind whipped the snow around them, icy particles stinging their faces as an enormous red dragon landed in their midst.
“Do you want to bring the enemy down upon us before we’re ready?” Kamarie slid down off the dragon’s back and her husband, King Oraeyn, followed. Though her words contained a reprimand, her eyes sparkled with laughter.
The deafening sound of hoofbeats made them turn. Others had arrived. Brant’s heart swelled with pride as he gazed fondly on the familiar faces. Arnaud, his dearest friend, was there, along with his wife, Zara. Jemson, Brant’s nephew, along with an entire army of aethalons also appeared. Along with these were the wizardess, Leila; dragons; and knights of Aom-igh. He searched, but one face was conspicuously absent. He was not sure why this bothered him, but he could not help but wonder where the Minstrel was in all of this. If there was time, he would have to ask Ky what he knew.
Jemson swung off his horse, disbelief and joy on his face at the sight of his father. Ky embraced his son and stepped back, holding Jemson at arm’s length.
“Look at you!” he cried. “Your mother would be so proud.”
A horrible chorus of blood-curdling shrieks and howls recalled them to their purpose. All eyes turned to Brant as he raised his sword high over his head.
“Friends!” he called out. “We have answered the call. This world and these people have been robbed of their fighting strength, and in this final hour they have need of ours.”
A cheer rang out in response.
“Just on the other side of this forest lies a city besieged by Orcs. I know not more than you what dangers such fell beasts may pose, but I have faced seheowks and wyvrens with many of you. Together, we have faced dread dragons and were-creatures. With you valiant warriors at my side I fear nothing that lies before us.”
“For Ebulon!” Ky’s voice rang out, reverberating off the snow-covered trees. Others took up the cry. High above them, the dragons wheeled and roared.
Brant answered the cry, “For Ebulon and all who seek peace and freedom!” He leapt onto the back of one of the horses. Dylanna and Ky followed suit.
The army poured through the forest with Brant and Ky leading the charge. The men and women were well-trained and needed no further orders for now. Brant and Ky raced together at the head of their force, leading the charge. Brant glanced over at Ky and they shared a grin. Despite the danger they were about to face, there was something exciting and wild about the coldness in the air, something exhilarating about the way the snow sparkled in the moonlight, something invigorating about facing a new challenge and testing their skills as warriors once more. Beyond that, it was good to see his brother again, the way Brant remembered him: his best friend.
They reached the forest edge and halted, surveying the scene before them. A narrow plain separated them from the outer walls of a massive city. The walls stretched away in either direction as far as the eye could see… or they would have, had they not been demolished. The remains of the wall lay in large, jagged chunks as if they had exploded from the inside out. There was no way to tell if the damage extended all the way around the city, or even if the wall had been unique to this particular portion of the city.
Inside the walls were buildings and dwellings the like of which Brant had never seen. They lined cobbled streets that wound their way up the mountain around which the city had been built. The roads culminated in a massive stone castle that had been carved into the face of the mountain.
But it was not this sight that made Brant pause. It was the army of creatures before him. Thousands of grotesque beasts were arrayed just on the other side of the broken wall. He could not make out their numbers clearly, but his own forces were easily outnumbered by more than five to one. The leader of this monstrous army, a massive, hideous Orc, sat atop his Warg. The Orc’s mouth was stained red and his eyes gleamed a sickly yellow. He gripped an immense sword in one mighty claw and a thorn-covered whip in the other. In contrast to his own ugliness, the Warg was actually a stunningly beautiful creature. Its appearance was not unlike that of a wolf, though it was nearer the size of a dragon.
Urging his Warg forward with a loud, “Hah!” and a lash from his wicked-looking scourge, he rode forward across the meadow to face Brant and Ky, who sat their horses at the front of the army.
“It proves I was right to return with my legion to fortify this area once more,” he snarled. A cunning light appeared in his eyes as they darted between the faces of the two men before him. “The reports were true: armies of unknown origin have come to save Ebulon,” his voice became a mocking hiss. “What interest have you in Ebulon? This is not your fight. Why risk your lives for this paltry kingdom? We have no quarrel with you.” The Orc grinned, a ghastly sight. “You are too late. Ebulon has fallen. Ebulon is ours. Leave us this place. Leave us our feast and we will let you go in peace.”
“We seek no terms with you,” Brant growled through clenched teeth. “You offer peace to us in exchange for slaughter to them? We will never have peace with you, and you will never slaughter again!”
“Then you choose slaughter for all!” the Orc roared.
“Enough talk!” Ky yelled. “Aethalons! Forward!”