Under the blazing sun, two armies marched toward a battlefield. They served different goddesses, carried hatred of each other from their forebears, and each had sworn to annihilate the other. They marched, but not against each other. They marched together against an evil beyond what they had conceived and been told about one another.
Fighters and warriors strode side by side. Hunters and archers stood poised, peering into the distance with sharp eyes. The Nordein captain and commander, Athena, Volke, Lily, and Trogdor walked in the middle of it all. Trogdor was awestruck at the sight before him. This was unprecedented. Never before had the two factions, the Alliance of Light and Union of Fury, come together in a cooperative manner. Each side had always blamed the other for the conflict, but neither had ever made any effort to attain peace. But now, with this great evil threatening both groups, that fierce hatred had been redirected.
Trogdor wondered if, after Ashnard lay dead at his feet, the peace would continue.
That question would have to wait, as Ashnard's manor had just come into view.
"Halt!" The Nordein commander's order was relayed by Shinon and Ike, and the company halted.
The Gliter captain spoke. "Volke. Trogdor. Before us is the abode of Lord Ashnard. We do not know how he will respond, but he will certainly be aware of our presence. Be ready." They nodded.
The Nordein commander barked out more orders, and the force changed its formation. The front line of fighters, warriors, and guardians spread out, with the guardians at the edges. Assassins made up the flanks behind them, making the guardians the corners of the formation. Lily, Athena, and the other spellcasters moved to the center, where they would be most protected. Shinon's archers and the hunters surrounded them, making up the rear, with Trogdor and Volke at the very back, ready to respond to any sign of an ambush. Thus arranged, they moved toward Ashnard's estate.
As they drew near, the doors of the manor house were opened by some unseen force, and the assassins began pouring out. Vail upon Vail rushed through the doorways, a seemingly never-ending flood of twisted souls. They came together into a growing swarm of grinning killers, steel glinting in the oppressive sunlight. The two forces drew up to each other, and one Vail stepped out of the crowd.
"My Lord Ashnard wishes to know the meaning of this intrusion upon his private lands. The Union knows it has no business being here. Explain yourself, Deatheater."
The captain, with a grim look on his face, responded. "We are sent by the council of Gliter to take in Lord Ashnard for questioning about his recent actions. He may either come peacefully, or we will have no choice but to use force."
"Oh really? Isn't that nice." The Vail spat into the dirt. "I'll go tell him that, why don't I? I'm sure he'd love to hear he's being questioned. In fact, I believe I know what his response will be." Almost faster than the eye could see, he flung a dagger in the direction of the captain. Trogdor tensed, realizing what had happened, but helpless to act in time...
The dagger stopped in mid-air, inches from the Nordein's face. His hand was gripped around the handle. A few assassins near him gasped, obviously impressed. The Vail who had thrown it was laughing.
"So, you didn't die right at this moment. So be it. Prepare yourselves. And consider yourselves lucky; we don't usually warn people and give them a fair fight."
He licked his dagger. "Though, this will hardly be fair." He turned around, disappearing in the crowd of bloodthirsty Vails.
The Nordein captain threw the dagger to the ground, turning to Volke and Trogdor. "Not surprisingly, we have to fight. Our goal is Ashnard, and you're the best chance we have at taking him. Athena, and you, Lily, I want you to go in with them. You'll need both might and magic against him."
"I'm going too." Shinon had approached them, and now stood before them, daring any one of them to deny him his will.
"Are you sure, Elf archer? Your troops will need directing--"
"My boys will handle themselves. I have a score to settle." He looked at Trogdor, who nodded. Trogdor felt like Shinon was the only one who could possibly know what he felt, since Shinon had experienced it himself. Revenge was their kindred spirit.
"Very well. We will try to press through their middle and clear a path to the manor. Once you feel you are able, you five enter and find Ashnard. What you do then... is up to you."
The conversation ended there, as maniacal laughter filled the air. The corrupted Vails were letting out their war cry, expressing their mirth at the prospect of death. Still laughing, as one being, they charged
"For the Union!" "For the Alliance!" "For the Goddess!" Each man, Vail, Elf, and Nordein gave his own battle-cry, their shouts adding a warmth to the chilling din of the twisted assassins. They charged, forgoing all fears, all thoughts of retreat, all foreboding at facing this unearthly foe. They charged, defying death even as they ran to it.
They charged, and they met their foe.
Not even a full minute had passed before the field was covered in blood. Arms, legs, and heads were violently sheared from torsos. Bones snapped, tendons ripped, and flesh was torn asunder. Showers of arrows and javelins plunged into Vail flesh, dropping line after line of swarming assassins. Guardians bashed in skulls with shield and mace, while whirling swords and axes carved through the throng of mindless killers. Assassins met assassins, pure fighting corrupted, as the merit of training and honed skill clashed with the recklessness and unfettered strength of insanity. Any twisted Vails that pierced the lines were instantly incinerated by precisely launched spells. The sheer number of foes, however, soon brought Trogdor and Volke into the fray. They fought side by side, turning aside daggers and claws with their own steel while delivering deadly blow after fatal strike. Their enemies fell like wheat before a reaper, yet still they kept coming. Lily and Athena blasted Vails into oblivion, clearing enemies away from each other whenever they got too close. The two Nordein officers, one a respected and revered active military commander, the other a hardened veteran charged with the security of a city, unleashed the fury within them that had brought them through all those years of conflict. Each hefted a two-handed axe that most humans would barely be able to lift, yet they delivered blows nearly as quickly as Trogdor and Volke. Whether sweeping aside clusters of foes with powerful swings or sinking blades into flesh with deadly precision, they laid waste to the multitude of enemies before them. They were no cowardly "noble" officers, in positions of power only for their lineage; they fought at the front lines, alongside their men. With this duo at the spearhead, the allied force pushed its way through the swell of deranged Vails.
Volke called to Trogdor, nearly screaming to raise his voice above the din of battle. "Trogdor! Now's our chance!" Trogdor looked to the manor. Only a few lines of assassins stood between the Nordein, now an unstoppable machine of death, and the door to Ashnard's abode. Trogdor beckoned to Lily and Athena, who acknowledged him and began running. Shinon was already making his way there, loosing arrows at a pace almost matching that of his feet. When the five had caught up to the Nordein officers, nothing but blood and bodies remained to impede their path. Trogdor was shocked to see Ike there with them, as much blood spattered across his armor as the towering Nordeins'. One of his swords had been lost, and he was wielding an axe he had picked up in the fray. His remaining and once radiant blade was now completely stained with blood and gore.
"Go!" the Nordein commander roared at them. "Get inside! We will hold them off until you come out, or until all of us or them are dead!" Trogdor heeded his words and sprinted past him. As they entered the manor, he heard the Nordein bellowing almost jovially.
"Come, my friend Ike. Let us die together as warriors!"
"Yes," Ike replied. "And then we shall do battle for all eternity in the next life. To war, my brother!"
The captain of Gliter shut the great doors, and the sounds of battle became muffled. Trogdor looked toward the doors at the top of the stairs in front of him. Through those doors lay his goal, and his destiny...