He lowered his sword and charged at the enormous Orc. The creature appeared amused and brushed aside Ky’s attack. He let out a chilling howl, unleashing the flood of grisly, malice-filled creatures to flow over the field of battle.
With his brother surrounded in the midst of the enemy swarm, Brant drove his horse forward. With the Fang Blade aloft he shouted his battle cry, which reverberated before and behind as his army followed and raced into the attack.
All was chaos and blood and the clang of steel upon steel. Brant lost sight of Ky. He lost sight of every familiar face as he rode into the fray. Tusks, teeth, claws, and a foul odor was his entire world as he battled his way from one foe to the next. The Orcs fought with unparalleled ferocity. This enemy was powerful and skilled, and they knew no fear.
The pure white snow gracefully blanketing the meadow quickly transformed into a muddy, blood-strewn horror. Arrows rained down on the Orc ranks as Kamarie and Zara commanded the archers. Oraeyn and Arnaud, the kings of Aom-igh, fought desperately side by side, felling Orcs and Wargs in reckless abandon.
The dragons above blasted the enemy with searing bolts of fire, but this was hardly the first battle for these Orcs and they had their own archers and spearmen. It soon became apparent that five to one odds could not be held at bay for long. One dragon fell to the earth, screaming, a javelin buried in its chest.
The battle raged on and Brant could see that many who had answered his call now lay dead on this field of grief. The destroyers of Ebulon had paid dearly, but victory was still theirs to claim. Suddenly, the Orc army pulled back. Brant stared, uncomprehending, his senses strained as he tried to discern why the enemy seemed to be calling a retreat. A humming noise filled the air, followed by a soot-like mist that emanated from the ground and shadowed all it touched. Realization struck and Brant’s mind cried out a warning. He wheeled his horse frantically. He knew not what this mist could do, and he did not want to find out.
“Dylanna! Magic!” he shouted, his eyes scanning the ranks of his comrades, searching for her face.
In an instant she was at his side, along with her sisters, Leila and Zara. They studied the darkness as it shrouded the enemy from sight.
“Can you counter it?” Brant asked.
“We will need the help of dragons,” Dylanna replied. She bent her mind towards that purpose in hopes that this new call would soon be answered.
Zara and Leila joined Dylanna and the three wizardesses stood together silently. Brant could not see the magic they wrought, nor did he understand it, though he could wield a measure of his own magic. A shimmer appeared in the air between them and the writhing mist. It reminded Brant of the dome Calyssia had created around her Pearl Cove, as well as the shield Zara had once erected around Fortress Hill to protect a large group of women and children during a battle many years ago.
A great red-gold dragon landed nearby. It shimmered and the creature became a young man who ran over to Brant.
“Brant, Dylanna sent for me,” the lad panted.
“Good man,” Brant stepped back, letting Yole join his wife.
The black mist reached the barrier. It paused as if uncertain though surely it was impossible for such a thing to have emotions of any kind. Yole closed his eyes as the mist hesitated and all the muscles in his face tightened. Sweat trickled down his forehead at the effort he was expending. A brilliant blue-white bolt of lightning sparked out from the barrier and cracked through the mist like a scourge. A mighty wind whirled into existence and the black mist was flung back towards the Orc army.
A truly horrifying scream soared up from the Orcs as the mist reached their front line. Brant could not see clearly what was happening, but the sickening cries and howls emanating from his foes told him he was glad of this.
As the mist cleared, Brant could see that it left behind a void of twisted, tortured death on everything it had touched. The horror of what had just been avoided caused teh bravest to tremble. Taking advantage of the momentary pause, Brant regained the initiative and urged his men forward to the attack.
Once more Brant’s army surged onto the battlefield. The Orcs, with a greatly reduced advantage, met them halfway with a renewed savagery and hatred. As Brant felt the weight of the unrelenting malice of his enemy, he understood that their opponent could not be measured in numbers, but rather the evil by which it was inspired.
Searing pain in his left side caught him completely off-guard. He had not seen the Warg as it leapt, but he felt its claws and teeth as they sank into his shoulder and side, and he felt the sensation of being airborn as he was carried from his saddle. He landed on his back with an anguished thud, the Warg’s teeth still firmly embedded in his shoulder. The impact knocked the breath from his lungs and he lay there, gasping, unable to lift his sword or reach his dagger. The Warg pressed a large paw onto his chest, making it even more difficult for Brant to find his breath. The beast lifted its head in an earth-shattering howl then its sharp teeth drove towards Brant’s unprotected neck.
There was nothing he could do. Brant closed his eyes and accepted the fact of an honorable death in battle. It was not the worst place he could have died, he reasoned, waiting to feel the fangs rip into his throat and the warmth of his lifeblood seep out onto the ground.
Instead, he felt the pressure lift from his chest and he heard a savage death cry. Then a strong hand wrapped around his wrist and he felt himself pulled to a stand. He opened his eyes and looked into the solemn eyes of his brother. The Warg lay a few feet away, its dark blood staining the trampled snow in a wide pool.
“Sorry I couldn’t get to you sooner,” Ky apologized. “How badly are you hurt?”
Brant gingerly touched the gashes on his side and shoulder and found they were not as deep as he had feared. He could not raise his left arm, but he could still swing his sword arm with full range of motion.
“I think I’ll live,” he said, “thanks to you.”
“You’re my little brother,” Ky said simply. “It’s my job to watch your back.”
Brant swallowed past a sudden lump in his throat, but had no time to reply, for the enemy was upon them once more. Back to back, Brant and Ky battled the fell beasts, slaying many. As he stood with his brother, the carcasses of their enemies piling up before them, Brant found himself experiencing a sudden euphoria.
This is how it was supposed to be! he thought as he stabbed an Orc that was lunging towards Ky’s unprotected side. Ky parried a blow and then gave a mighty back-handed swing, cleaving an Orc’s head from its shoulders just before it could drive its dagger into Brant’s back. Their movements were like an intricately choreographed dance. Their swords were a whirling frenzy of death. Their every motion perfectly complemented the other’s movements. There was a momentary lull in the battle around them and Brant and Ky shared a wild grin. Brant threw his head back and laughed up into the sky.
“Thank you, Minstrel!”