Sunday, 12 December 2010

Battle for the Fortress of Dawn

The Fortress of Dawn had maintained vigil on the Cenebrae River delta for more than a century. The Lords of Mellvellon had been content to ignore the activities and rapid expansion of the Kaalroen Empire, still viewing them with contempt- to the Dragon Lords these people were little more than totem-worshipping savages. Yet the Kaalroen Empire took great umbrage at the presence of the Elven fortress. In particular the Skraelings considered the lowlands around the Cenebrae as their rightful claim and an important access to the Cullbain bay. Previously in 178PC the warriors of Novgorod had marched against the Fortress but the Elves had been quick to respond and the Archmage Althuvial had led the sally to disperse the northmen.

Over the next three decades the Kaalroens focussed upon building the town of Storavattenstad on the southern reaches of the Cenebrae delta as a place from which they could operate their naval forces and, perhaps most importantly, supply their armies for another attack on the Fortress of Dawn. By 211PC the Skraelings had amassed a mighty force and secured its necessary supply routes. Now they were ready for war.

The Kaalroen host counted many Skraelings amongst its numbers, as well as savage horsemen of the Hjemland plains, tribal warriors of the Branmeren hills, and the dread knights of Hovestaden. In their thousands the Kaalroens answered the call to war. The armies made camp across the delta, supplied by the townsfolk of Storavattenstad and also by barges carrying grain from Novgorod up the river.

In answer Mellvellon sent reinforcements to the mainland and Prince Saravael himself rode to war, mounted on the ancient dragon Vhalkaur, the Crimson Flame. Once again the Elven host marched out onto the plains before the Fortress to meet their adversaries in the field rather than waiting for a direct assault against the defences.

The Kaalroens seized their chance to take the battle to the Elves and rushed across the plain to meet their hated foe, their march covered by devasting salvoes from their mighty Hellcannon batteries. Yet their attack was confounded by the Elves as war eagles harried the Kaalroens and interrupted the advance of the infamous Chosen Warriors of Hjemland, whilst Elven archers whittled down the Skraeling numbers. The Sorcerers of Chaos unleashed terrible magicks upon the Elves and for a time it looked as if the Elven left flank might disintegrate under this assault. But the Elves rallied and stood firm, grimly determined to defend their position. As the Skraelings horde surged forward Elven foot-soldiers marched to counter them in the centre of the field. Now battle was truly met.

As the armies clashed the Elven mages turned the winds of magic to their advantage. Althuvial bewitched the northmen in the van of the Kaalroen host to sap them of their strength. The tribesmen fell in their droves in a flurry of Elven blades. Seizing the moment, Saravael spurred Vhalkaur down upon the enemy host from on high, blanketing them in searing dragon-flame before crashing into their midst. Beset on all sides the Skraelings’ nerve finally broke and they fled in panic, even as their lords stood amongst them bellowing and raging at them to hold their ground.

As the Kaalroen centre collapsed Althuvial ordered the elite Phoenix Guard against the enemy’s right flank. Given other-worldly strength by Althuvial’s enchantments, the Phoenix Guard scythed into the warriors from Hovestaden. Once again the onslaught proved too much for the Kaalroens and to the ire of their lords they too fled the field. The Chaos Sorcerers looking on saw Saravael’s household guard emerge from the forest, ready to close on the Kaalroen reserves, and realised that their battle was lost. They withdrew the Kaalroen rearguard westward toward Novgorod in an attempt to re-group.

Satisfied that the battle had been won, Saravael turned Vhalkaur back to the Fortess of Dawn to enact the final stage of his plan. As he circled above the central keep, brandishing the banner of the fallen Skraelings, a great cheer went up from the garrison. The beacons on the battlements were lit to signal to the Elven fleet anchored in the Cullbain bay. From the waiting Eyrie carriers a dozen fire drakes took flight and soared across the bay towards the now undefended town of Storavattenstad. Led by Saravael and Vhalkaur, the drakes rained fire and ruin down upon the town until it became a raging inferno. The townsfolk tried to flee, some escaping west along the banks of the Cenebrae to take refuge in the Branmeren Hills. Many more were consumed in the blaze.

Young Prince Tinuvain watched the dancing fires as the town of the northmen burned in the evening’s failing light. Not yet come-of-age, Tinuvain had only been able to watch the conflict from battlements of the Fortress of Dawn as his father and elder brother Ruvien had led the counter-attack against the Skraeling horde. He could make out the distant shapes of the Elven soldiers silhouetted against the twilight horizon, returning from their pursuit westward.

"The barbarians must be made example of” his father said to him, gazing out across the delta to the great pyre. He gently placed his hand upon his son’s shoulder, though did not turn to him. He seemed transfixed by the fires.

Tinuvain thought for a moment. He looked up at Saravael. “But Father, they were just people. You beat their soldiers in battle. Why did they have to die?”

“Those who dare take up arms against Mellvellon must pay a heavy price. The ruin of Storavattenstad will stand as a warning to any who dare oppose us.” He struggled to pronounce the town's name in it's native tongue. The elves had not deigned to give the hovel a name. His words were heavy and solemn, yet as the firelight reflected in his eyes it seemed to make them glitter with triumph and pride.

“But they didn’t fight, Father.”

“They gave the warriors supplies, Tinuvain. Gave them food and shelter. Made their weapons...”

“But some were only children like me, Fath...”

“Tinuvain, enough!” His father snapped at him, and for a brief moment Tinuvain could see rage in his father’s face.

"Forgive me, Father, I..." Seeing his son's anguish, Saravael was composed once again. His face warmed and he smiled patiently. “One day those children would grow to become warriors, and they in their turn would fight against us”.

Tinuvain weighed his next question carefully beofre he spoke, “Why do they fight us, Father?” This time his tone was more timid. He did not wish to anger his father again.

“Because they are savages, my son. Such is their lot. They know only war and destruction.” Yet as Tinuvain looked back to the blazing ruin of the town, he saw homes and markets and farms burning. The anguished cries of the townsfolk echoing across the estuary had sounded pitiful to Tinuvain. He wondered what choice they had been given, if any, in becoming party to his father's 'war and destruction'.

"One day, my son, you will understand.”

The fires of Storavattenstad burned long into the night. A testament to the fury of the Dragon Lords.

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