As the sun set across the plains of Del Nor, a gentle breeze
picked up from the East.
"It will rain tonight Legandnis. It will be a deep rain that will soak
the earth to the core."
"Yes. It looks that way Eranis," said Legandnis as he looked to
the East with a look of trepidation on his normally cold face. It had been
nearly a month since the defeat at The Battle of Aranith. There were many good
men that had fled as the Orcish Horde had surprised them on the West Road.
Stranded hundreds of miles into the enemy nations of Glarelin, they had spent
the past month hidding out and slowly making the trek back to the East, toward
their homeland of Miliria.
Eranis slowly turned to address the men.
"Soldiers of the Aliance! We have a great deal of distance yet to go.
Tonight will be the night where only the most determined will go on. Tonight
we take the Aril pass to the other side of these cursed mountains. It looks
like our God is not with us yet, for it will rain before we reach there. Let
us take a few minutes to check our gear and have our prayers. Be ready to move
out when I call."
"Hey Shadow. Do you think we'll make it?"
"Well I was thinking. Maybe me and you could look after
each other. You could use your bow to hit any enemy at a distance and I'll
keep them off you with my sword."
"I don't know Erik. Last time
someone in my family trusted yours, we ended up being chased off our kingdom
by Orcs who ruined the land and left us with nothing. Let me think on that
"Listen Shadowseeker!The Darksteels have never failed
a promise to your people.In fact we have even help your kind after those
ruined your land by loaning you gold to rebuild and soilders to defend with.
We have more than paid for our mistake and delay."
hard for the next few minutes as the memories of what had happened fell over
him like a tidal wave of misery and pain. He was only a child in his 50th
year when the Orcs had over run his home land of Dunedhel. It was a
beautiful place. Fresh springs could be found everywhere in the Forest of
Finduilas. With trees so old that even mother nature herself couldn't
remember their age. It was a place of peace and hope. It was one of the
legendary Hidden Kingdoms.Now, however, it's forests were black with death
and it's springs were poison.Many years would pass before it would even be
safe to live there without the help of magic.But that was 100 years ago.
The more he thought, the more he realized that he was wrong to be so harsh
to his friend.Placing a careful hand on Erik, Shadow appoligized."Sure
friend.We shall go and fight as one.Elven bow and Human sword together as
one against all that we meet."
Erik's shoulders noticably relaxed.He
took a deep breath of air and slowly let it out."I would have looked
out for you anyway Shadow.I owe you a debt.I can't afford to let you die
because you want to fight alone."
"The same for me Erik.You
are like the brother I always wanted but never had. Come now. Let us pray
to our gods."
"Yes. I agree."
They were still praying a few minutes later when Legandnis came by.
"It's time to go," his musical voice lept out. "Get
They moved slowly across the barren mountain, careful not to stumble or move under the open moon, whose presence was intermittent as thick black clouds slowly rumbled over the mountains. After a period of time, it began to rain, softly at first and then gradually harder until you couldn't see more than a few feet in front of oneself. Shadow glared at the blackened mass above him as he put away his bow and pulled out his staff. "At times like this, I wish I knew how to use a sword," he muttered. Erik heard his comrades' remark and couldn't help the smile that crossed his face.
The night seemed to move slowly as they crept through the night in a rain so thick; gruel would be thin in comparison. As they crept on, Shadow carefully scanned the mountain and the others around him. He noticed a few of the humans near him and then spotted the dwarf that was with them. He was named Nemor and he was a fair dwarf, if any could be described as such, as he struggled up the mountain in his chain mail armor and his heavy Battle-Axe clipped to his belt. Shadow tried to remember the legends of Feln, father of Nemor. Nemor was a sad excuse for a son of such a great warrior. He joined this army because he was kicked out of his culture and disowned by his father when he fled the Massacre of Dun Felan and saw this as a way to regain his status in Dwarven society. Shadow felt pity for the dwarf, but not enough to talk to him. During his thoughts, the rain had lessened enough to allow for decent sight and the clouds parted and the moon shined down on them.
As he was looking at Nemor, he saw his face twitch and Nemor look off to his left as his hands shot for his Axe. It was then that he heard the twang of a bow and saw one of the human soldiers' fall down. Roughly, shadow grabbed Erik and threw him down on the ground.
"Wha-," whispered Erik but he soon stopped as he saw what was going on behind them. They had been ambushed by a band of Gnolls. He could only see five at a time, but he knew there had to be many more hidden in the rocks. By now word had gotten that there was an ambush and Shadow could see Legandnis making his way down to see the situation for himself and then give orders.
Shadow turned around and saw what happened behind for the first time. "Dear Gods…" he muttered. Where one of the soldiers was, a stone the size of a small boulder lay and he couldn't see anything of the soldier under it except for a crushed helmet that appeared to be worn at time of impact. "How could I have missed feeling that?"
By then, Legandnis had arrived. He appeared paler than normal.
"Are you alright, sir?"
"There are ten Gnolls, but they aren't the problem. There is a giant out there. A 15' tall giant that seems really pissed about something right now."
"So what are we going to do about this situation, sir?"
"Dawn is just a few hours away, so we will stay here. I have the army making a circle around them so they won't be going anywhere soon. All we have to do is lay low and hope that the giant doesn't throw anymore rocks at us for a while. Do you know what went on behind you?"
"No. I just saw Nemor's face twitch and then heard an arrow fly and hit one of the humans and then I hit the dirt and did what I could for those around me. I had no idea how that rock got there though. I wasn't paying attention to that. I was trying to protect those in front of me who were in an opening, sir."
"Good work Elf."
A look of wonder passed over Shadow's face as he wondered the fate of Nemor.
Suddenly, Shadow became aware of the presence of a snake. Silently, it had crept upon them and was right now heading for the rocks they had hidden. "Guys? There is a really big snake approaching from where Nemor was."
Erik turned around and saw the biggest rattlesnake he had ever seen. At least six inches in diameter and four feet long, it had to weigh as much as one hundred pounds. He drew his sword.
"Put your sword away."
"What! Are you nuts Legandnis? Not a chance."
"I didn't say that soldier. I think it came from the snake."
"I don't think so. Snakes don't talk."
"This one does," said the snake.
Slowly the snake transformed to a Dwarf. "Sorry about that. I guess I should have gone further back before coming in here. Did you miss me?"
Shadow stood there completely at a loss for words. Legandnis had a big smile and Erik was disappointed.
"And I thought I was going to get me a new snake skin pouch."
"You're a snake."
"No Shadow. I am not a snake. I am a Dwarf. Can you not see as much with your own eyes?"
"You're a Dwarf now, but you were a snake before. I'm not certain of how, but I don't think you are a Dwarf."
"Relax Shadow. He is a Dwarf. And I know how he did that, but it is his decision as to whether he will let it be known." Then Legandnis seemed to drift out of reality for a few seconds. During this period, his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he emitted a strange pale glow about him that cast an eerie light upon the group. Then he returned to normal. "Ok. Eranis is in position."
"How do you know that sir?"
"He told me so. Enough doing nothing and sitting around talking to each other. Get ready for the attack in the morning." Then Legandnis got up and disappeared into the early morning fog.