Medievia Mudslinger

November 24th, 2002

The End of the Alendora - By Noelio

Motheus strode down the main steps to the Counsel Chambers, his face knotted in confusion from the disturbing meeting a few minutes before. Had the scouts been lying? Were there possibly many thousands of troops ready to invade the Alendora? Motheus had hoped the scouts were wrong, but knew in his heart they were not. He paused a moment on the second last step to send out tendrils of his magic in all directions before and about him. Once the magic was summoned, he sent his consciousness into the air, speeding across the plains of the Alendora. Suddenly he stopped; his body shivered. Good. At least he could take some comfort in the fact that Githalios had not yet attacked.

He continued down the great white wood steps and toward his ever-dark and dismal home. Again he paused at the doorstep to send out his magic tendrils, searching the air before him. This time, however, he frowned. Something was in his house.

Smoothly and silently, Motheus drew forth his long hunting knife from its leather sheath buried beneath his council robes. He began to walk cautiously toward the door. Almost immediately, something jumped out at him from the right.

Fluidly, Motheus brought the long knife between them with a quick movement of his body. As the shape jumped full force toward him, it landed on the long knife, driving the blade deeply into its body. Motheus watched carefully as the assassin slumped slowly to the floor, the obsidian dirk falling from hiss grip and blood trickling down his jerkin.

As it hit the ground, its body, blood and all other trace of it vanished from view. Motheus watched, a single word ringing through his head.

Magic.

Meanwhile in the neighboring kingdom of Githyanki, Githalios the Tyrant meditated on his throne of crystal inlaid skulls. He grinned in satisfaction as his plan began to unfold. The Alendora would soon be his, and his nemesis would soon either submit to him or die under agonizing torture. A laugh filled the throne room as Githalios' excitement escaped him momentarily.

Suddenly the grin vanished and was replaced be the normal, deep and thoughtful frown. Githalios needed to mobilize the massive army and quick too, if he ever wanted this invasion to get underway. The clans and tribes that Githalios had managed to gather to his great army were growing restless. They wanted to fight and to receive the glorious spoils of war that were promised them. If Githalios could not bring a victory about soon, the tribes and clans would disband and all go their separate ways. Some leaders were already growing rebellious.

Some of that business remained to be dealt with. A bell summoned a servant and Githalios gave a few orders. One of the kobold tribal leaders had threatened to invade the Githyanki instead if action were not taken soon. Within the hour he would be in the pit with the wild dogs as an example. The audience had already been assembled.

Despite several such public demonstrations there were still other leaders intent on leaving. Githalios jumped down from his glistening throne, already contemplating his next battle.

The attack came early. Raiding forces from Githalios' main army set out at the break of dawn and began torching the outlying hunting grounds of the forest and sacking and looting the nearby cabins and huts. During the night, Motheus had spent the whole of his time upgrading defensive positions and mobilizing his army, but the staunch defenders were quickly overrun and dispersed or routed, leaving the countryside ripe for looting and plundering.

The day wore on, and the Havensdora village, the capital of the Alendora and home of the Counsel and Motheus, received many battle-scarred troops and refugees. Scouts came and went constantly. As dusk came, a crimson glow began to light the horizon as parts of the forest burnt and watch fires were lit. All about, the people began to speak of the impending doom of the Alendora. Throughout the night, Motheus upgraded defenses and prepared for the inevitable main attack. Wooden parapets were put into place, moats were dug and filled, men, women, and even children were drafted into the army to serve in one way or another.

"It wonít work," a grim Elder Council member said. "Itís too risky. I say we retreat into the forest and fight with stealth on our side. That is what we are best at! Ambush them and destroy their supplies! You must see this Motheus!"

Motheus stared coolly across the council room at the heated council member. "No. I have had enough of running and fleeing and stealth. This is our home city and here we will make our stand. So I have spoken ; so it shall be. Whilst one of us remains we shall stand against Githalios' plans."

The council members looked at each other wearily. None doubted the strength of Motheus. It just seemed as though he were asking too die. "Forget honor!" they argued. "The survival of our people is more important. Do not leave them to die!"

At last though, Motheus got fed up with it. "I am tired of old men and politics and votes! Let us fight. I shall take my place in the ranks and lead the troops to break the enemy in the forest.." Seeing that they could get nowhere with this pointless argument, the council members gave up.

The decision bolstered the hearts of the defenders and a new attitude began to show on faces. Weapons were hefted with a new determination and barricades were reinforced. Ambushes were set amongst the trees and the attackers paid for every yard in blood. Where they invaded, Motheus and his men appeared, striking back and retreating silently. Invaders came face to face with piles of their comrades and many quailed at the sight.

More and more fresh troops poured into the forest and many ended up amongst the loam, their life feeding the trees. Yet against such odds the elves were slowly ground down, their numbers falling steadily while Githalios sent more fresh forces against them.

By dawn the steady flow of wounded elves slowed as fewer and fewer defenders remained, many falling where they stood and unable to escape with their wounds to safety. Motheus listened to the reports and, at last, he was persuaded of the desperate situation.

Faced with the inevitable within, he began preparations to evacuate the city via the northern gate. The hastily formed plan was to speed along the road to the mountain range to the northeast where it would be difficult for Githalios to maneuver his gigantic army. Even as the preparations began, word came in from the scouts that had been sent in that direction. Githalios had begun to move part of his forces in that way to deny them any chance of escape.

Motheus joined the main body of reserves and slipped with them through the trees to where the enemy lay in wait. Their only chance was to break through before Githalios brought too many troops. The best and the bravest of his remaining troops massed together to hear his words.

"For the people, for the children," he told them and they understood. Words became unnecessary as they fell into line, awaiting the final order. It came and they charged.

The plan was to break through Githalios' defensive lines in one point and then spread havoc amongst their scattered numbers. The enemy, however, were ready. On silent feet, Motheus led his men forward and on silent wings arrows came to meet them.

Many fell in the first few volleys and Motheus took an arrow to his calf, forcing him to the ground. Without him the charge faltered and the elves began to waver. More fell and the retreat began. One soldier dragged Motheus to the rally point before falling with a shaft protruding from his back.

Empty faces stared at him and Motheus struggled to rise. Summoning what little magic he had left, he drew the barb from his leg and closed the wound.

"What now?" The question was echoed on the faces of the survivors and they all turned to him.

"We only need one successful charge," Motheus told them. "Get every soldier fresh from the priests, every soldier who may be able to hold a sword or bow, every soldier who still draws breath. Bring them forward. Everyone else in the Alendora shall get ready to move behind us. We shall fight, I with you, and they shall flee." The elders had been right - the survival of his people was the only thing to matter now. His delay had meant that the blood-price would be so much higher but he was ready to pay it.

Messengers ran back and forth and scouts darted around, many never returning. Every hour in the darkness gnawed at their souls but every time one of them marked off the time they knew it would be their last moments.

The creaking of the first wagon to leave the Alendora roused Motheus from his meditation. It was time. "You will flee as we fight. Never stop," he told the driver. A woman with a child clinging to her dress nodded, her pale face washed white in the moonlight. It was time.

Motheus looked around at his assembled soldiers. They all knew what awaited them and the cost should they fail this time. He didn't speak and, as the first fingers of dawn began to peer over the horizon, he led his men through the trees.

They felt the freedom of the wind in their hair as they ran; the freedom of duty being expunged; the freedom of death. Upon the ranks of the Githyanki and their allies they fell and tore apart their lines. Trolls and goblins fell beneath Motheus' blade and high was the toll amongst his foes. The ground grew wet with blood, red, green and black.

"Through them!" he cried and a shout joined him. There were few voices in that shout, though, and Motheus looked around. His troops had acquitted themselves well but few remained. The blood price was being paid all too dearly.

The people though - Motheus dodged a blade and sent the owner's head flying with a desperate move. His eyes sought the wagons as they moved as fast as their horses could carry them. A tide of darkness pursued them, enemy troops pouring out from the forest to take down whole families and a single cresting wave.

Unable to help or watch, Motheus returned to what he knew - killing. They came to him and fell amongst their fellows. He came to them and killed. While he remained fighting the Alendora would live. His sword sang and his blood pulsed as foe after foe paid the price.

"The last one! He is mine!" They fell back from him, the hunger in their eyes turning to hatred. Motheus had received descriptions of Githalios and knew the Githyanki as he strode across the slick grass. His eyes continued around to see the remains of the wagons. None were whole. Beyond them the flames rose amongst the forest as the village of the Alendora burned amongst the trees.

"Stand your ground, last hero of the Alendora," Githalios shouted but Motheus started to run. The ranks parted with Githalios' last command and he brought up his last magics to cloak himself in a shield of invisibility. There was nothing left to fight for.

Ignoring Githalios' howling challenge, he fled into the hills and away from the remains of his people.

For eight days Motheus traveled, quickly but without purpose. The mountains offered some refuge from the scouting parties who hunted for his head. Through ravines and over trails he marched, rarely wondering what he would do. Thinking about that was to admit defeat and he still lived.

A mossy valley, full of game and wild fruits, greeted him and he took the chance to rest. Within this haven he slept and took stock of his wounds, many of which he hadn't noticed until then. Motheus rested there, dozing for days at a time and recovering. Would he move to seek sanctuary in another kingdom? Organize revenge with fresh troops of whatever race? The days and weeks passed as he considered his options.

"Home," he said aloud one day, the first word he had allowed himself to say since arriving there. The sun was shining and he felt at peace. "I am home." The Alendora was just a memory - it had died with his people. A small cairn sufficed to remind him of their passing, watered with a few bitter tears, but he felt as if he had never left the valley.

The summer wound on and the leaves turned to brown and began to fall. Motheus began to lay in supplies of firewood in his cave for the forthcoming winter, building himself a wall to retain the heat as best he could. The lattice was almost complete and he was about to weave the final branch in when his ears caught a noise.

Those voices were unmistakable - Githyanki.

Makeshift hunting arrows accounted for a number of their party before they could react. Motheus knew the terrain and danced with them, firing from hidden vantages and whittling the enemy down. Within an hour he faced one frightened scout. He allowed the Githyanki to see him and joined with him in single combat. The sorrow for his people had faded but the fury remained. It took hours for the Githyanki to die.

Motheus stood up from the remains of his enemy and listened to the future on the wind. There were more. Taking what he could use from the bodies he began to prepare to leave.

The far end of the valley came into sight as he began to run, hoping to find fresh shelter before the first snow fell. The line of cavalry that blocked that route made him stop. Motheus looked around to see patrols on the high points of the valley and a sizable force following his trail.

"So many of you for one of me?" he shouted but the words were whipped away by the breeze. The riders sat on their mounts dispassionately. "I am the last Havensdora," Motheus muttered, "Until I die the Alendora still lives." He raised his sword, freshly obtained from a blank-eyed corpse, and breathed deeply.

A shower of arrows pierced the valley floor but he was already moving. A rider from the patrol chasing him tried to run him down yet he had already dodged to the side. The horse stumbled and fell and Motheus darted back to dispatch the dazed Githyanki. Red stained the black armor.

More arrows and more red, Motheus' own this time from a black-fletched shaft that split his shoulder. More riders came in, much more warily this time, and yet they fell to the better fighter. Saddles slipped as Motheus cut their straps. His blades wrought a bloody mess of the Githyanki features. They died, screaming.

A dozen Githyanki approached on foot. Motheus smiled at them - their presence would mean no arrows to dodge. Ignoring the wound in his shoulder he began the dance of death. They came at him and died. He breathed steadily as he killed, savoring every last moment of life. One against many - this was how it should be.

A strike came faster than he could parry and more crimson stained his jerkin. It was the last thing that Githyanki did but it was enough. Motheus allowed his hand to seek the cut and felt the ribs beneath even as he dodged to one side. More cavalry were coming to wear him down.

Healing magic coursed through the wound but the delay cost him his sword, plucked from his weakened grasp by a mighty blow from an axe. It clattered across nearby stones and splashed into the stream far beyond his reach. Motheus ignored this and drew twin daggers, brandishing them before him. The axe-wielder paid them no heed and rushed forward.

Motheus stepped within his reach and sliced several holes to send his foe screaming to the ground. Something crashed into him from behind and he twisted to gash a face open. Even as he staggered something cold entered his guts and, for a long moment, he screamed.

Everything fell still. Motheus could see the light on the stream, glistening in the setting rays of the sun. The patches of grass held still despite the breeze. The faces of those around him were frozen into expressions of jubilation. "This is what it is to die," he gasped through the pain.

They were around him - more than a dozen Githyanki, each one ready to take a strike. It was time.

Magic coursed through Motheus' body and he gasped as the sword slid from his gut. Another blow sent him reeling and blood splashed into his eyes. The magic held firm. There were not enough close to him but there never would be.

The explosion took the Githyanki quickly. The closest were incinerated in an instant and those nearby battered by the howling gale.

The valley fell still for those left alive. More troops came forward and surveyed the scene of devastation. Empty husks of charred armor huddled together in heaps and weapons were scattered at random. The ranks parted to allow a bodyguard through and, at their center, rode a large Githyanki in silver-inlaid armor.

Githalios looked at the carnage and waved his bodyguard away. "There is nothing to fear here," he told them, striding forward to the center of the explosion.

He contemplated the remains - a charred area surrounded by empty armor and weapons. A trophy would have been nice, he thought. "This is over, fool - I won," he added aloud.

Githalios glanced back at his forces. It had cost him many men for this one refugee but the price had been worth paying. He could fight armies and even magic, but he could not fight the spirit of a lone hero. His warriors would not appreciate that and would see the empty spaces around the camp fire that night. They would understand his words, though, and understand his next plans.

Standing in his enemy's ashes, Githalios allowed the wind to ruffle his cloak as he stared to the east to the next kingdom.

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