The Battle for Aolia

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THE BATTLE FOR AOLIA
By Jeff Solomon & George Hirst
Alliance Deadlands
May 13th, 2010


THE BATTLE FOR AOLIA

I am a mother of Eire and three sons have I had. Last year I lost my youngest to the plague that spread through Authenrai. Today, I fear, I will lose the rest to war. Ships have come in greater numbers than I can count. The green and white of our beloved Queen flies from what must be over a hundred masts. There are other flags too, in silver and white, red and black, and on each one some proud symbol I have never seen before. They came from the mists, although none among the commons could tell you why. Does the human heart really still beat so righteous that whole armies would set sail to save a people they have never known? Were we like that once, before the world was sundered and all joy turned to ash in our mouths? All I know is that these streets are once more alive with a flurry of both pride and panic. We have not come out in these numbers in a long time now. The air is filled with the smell of burning coal. The forges are melting every scrap of metal they can get to arm our troops. The bakeries are running their ovens day and night, and in every doorway someone is crying goodbye to the loved one they will never see again. But still there is this pride. Standing in the harbor one can see the warships stretching out to the horizon. The castle’s gates have stood open for days as knights in all manner of heraldry rush in and out on urgent business. They say our Queen’s own daughter will set sail with the fleet. Now, as before, we of Eire will all make our sacrifices together. I am a mother of Eire, and I will always remember this day my sons set sail to save a people we have never known.
-
Today we will build the world we dream to give to our children. Today ten score of warships set sail, our flesh and our souls united in righteous action, that we might free this world from the poison that grips it’s heart, from the tyranny that perverts man's will. Today I watched as a thousand families waved to us, calling from the docks. The Good Father's banner unfurled above the armada, and a cheer erupted from all true and upright men of Sadeen Moore. We waved our farewells to wives and children. Some may not return, but in this moment, in this place, each of us knows in his heart the rightness of our path. It is the dream of all people to see beyond the horizon, to that better world we might leave behind when we are gone. It is the dream of every father that his hands might take up the tools of tradesman and soldier to craft a brighter, better future for his sons and daughters to grow and delight in. We will pave a road of gold to that brighter future that our children, that all children across the land, might know peace. In the Good Fathers name, I set sail that my children might one day live in a world free from icons, free from curses, free from magics.

May my children remember me with pride. May my children never again worry where their next meal will come from. May they remember their father so loved them that he took up arms that they might know peace.
-
I am an elf of the Deadlands, and I have no tribe for they are long since dead. Today I stand as a soldier on the deck of the Sundragon, under the command of our Lord Admiral Galloway. They say he is a monster at night. If we are lucky maybe he’ll transform and slaughter our enemies without us. They say we are outnumbered two ships to one. From the way our Admiral argues with the dark elf, I’d say they were right. There are maybe one hundred ships in Eire’s fleet, merchant vessels outfitted for war. This is the collective might of our new kingdom. They say adventurers are coming from across the mist to help, that a great call has resounded through all the free nations of Fortannis. Who would come to help this land in darkness? What good will adventurers do in a battle at sea? This is what I thought. Then, the first ships began to slip out from the fog. Three here, a dozen more there, and then a fleet of close to fifty flying an orange phoenix that blazed new hope across the sky. They say they come from Valdanis. They say they come from Moria, and Icenia, and from Caldaria. There were four ships so large they could have been cities of their own, and I wondered if their people had no land on which to live. Our Admirals weren’t arguing then. Instead there was the confident exchange of nods, the grim determination of two men who could now wage the war they wanted, who could take this fight to the enemy on their own terms. Everyone began to move with newfound purpose. Sailors and soldiers cried boisterous greetings across the decks. The captains gathered to make their battle plans. I watched them all, knights of every race, come from far off kingdoms that most of us will never see. They had come unto a land of darkness, and taken up the burden of other men’s woes. I am an elf of the Deadlands, and I will always remember this day, when the last free nations stood together against the tyranny of fear and declared with one voice, “We are still here!”
-
All around me, men talk as men going to war do, with wonder of what the day will bring, and the day after. They talk of the enemies they may face, and the home they will return to, yet never with too much longing lest it doom their fates. Some have sons they speak of with pride, some daughters they speak of with tenderness. I am among them, yet not among them, as I look out across the ocean, half listening as my thoughts turn to my own child, the one on the way, the one my lady carries now. I cannot help but smile as I think of him – or her, as my wife would remind if she were here - and the miracle he represents, to one such as me.

Once I was called ‘Elf’, and I labored under a curse that rendered me half a man at best.

Once I held my wife as she cried in her sleep, unable to bear a child.

I look back at these men and wonder if they too know of such things; if they too came to Sadeen Moore to escape some unjust burden. Perhaps they were always men, forced to kneel before an undeserving lord too enamored with his own legend to know right from wrong. Or maybe they were like me, cursed by powers never seen for crimes they never knew. Maybe they were as the Biata or the dwarves, laboring under the illusion one must fight for the table scraps of the icons, rather than stand on their own feet as we have. Is it any wonder that we now ready ourselves for war in the name of truth? My wife is pregnant, my child will one day be born, and I owe this all to the Good Father. He could ask any price, demand any tribute and I would give it. For what he’s given us, I would march into the plane of death itself.

The cry of a bat pierces the sky and we all look skyward as Pure Lord Samuel returns from scouting, just as Edric takes to the skies. Samuel. That is a good name for a Moorian child.
-
We had been two days at sea when we turned north and broke from the fleet. I am a sailor on the Snarky Wanker and they call me a “privateer”, when they want to be polite. The dark elf, Lord Orin, had come to our ship that morning to speak with Captain Zhenyu. “The Heirophan have managed to scout the Sadeen Moore fleet,” he’d said, “and we’re not going to make it in time, not enough to set our blockade.” So he charged her to take her ships, take thirty of his own and those pirates from Valdanis, to take them all and buy him a day. And as the setting sun painted the horizon in streaks of violet and orange, our near fifty ships rushed forward to meet the enemy and draw first blood. We came on them in the night, a massive fleet of two hundred galleons sailing in a ten by twenty formation. Torches still burned on their top decks, and the laughter of their men could be heard across the still, dark waters. Maybe they didn’t know how to fight on the seas at night, or maybe they just didn’t think anyone would dare. We dared. We were hard men of the sea, our Gypsy blood turned to salt and violence. And our captain was no less. I could hear her claws scrape lightly on the hilt of her swords, and beside her the warriors Morganne and Gwendara sharpened their blades.

We ran black sails, steered by moonlight, and lowered trapsmen into the water on floating barrels. We sailed around the armada unseen in the night, and we waited for the fires to signal our attack. The galleons began to pass, the trapsmen armed their explosives, and then thunder and light flashed across the sea. Some had found their mark, oars shattered and hulls cracked. Most exploded in empty water between ships, but it didn’t matter. Shouts of alarm began to pass across their decks, and twenty of our ships made a pass at their back lines. Twenty more made a run across their foremost corner. Night arrows rained from the sky and ballista bolts thudded loudly into their broadsides. I doubt we hit much, although there were a few memorable screams of pain. The point was fear. They trimmed their masts and a few dropped anchor as the lumbering beast realized it did not sail unchallenged anymore. Spotters peered into the dark and saw nothing, they were still night blind from the torches on deck. We made another pass, and a few ships broke off to give pursuit. Then the sound came, a horrendous screeching as a flock of bats launched themselves into the night sky. Black on black, they were nearly impossible to see. Zhenyu gave the order to withdraw, and all ships turned to lead our pursuers away from their armada. We’d thrown our stones at bear, and it had turned to give chase. Good for our fleet, not so good for us.

The bats were too fast for our ships. They streaked through the black above and tore at sails and masts. We shot blind, and our arrows sailed harmlessly passed them. A few ships slowed and foundered, including our own. A galleon came on us impossibly fast. Rope and hook flew between ships, and the enemy started to board. We drew swords, and formed a wall before the scholar, Phedre. She lit the night with a storm of celestial magic and their militiamen fell. Then, a horrifying screech at our prow. Wild eyed and riding on black wings, a Pure Lord had come to join the fray. Zhenyu and her companions charged. The Pure Lord let fly with gas globes as he leapt from his mount. I might have called it heroic, if he weren’t the enemy. But his tactics were known, and these warrior women were ready for his alchemy. They closed on him quickly, forced him to draw steel. Sharpened blades need no magic to kill. They danced; he was quick and skilled. He was also outnumbered, and our line kept the galleon sailors from reaching him. The Biata, Gwendara, charged him with her greatsword. The Barbarian, Morganne, kept him at bay with her spear. And as he fought for his life, our captain Zhenyu circled in the dark, and waited for her moment. It didn’t take long, her sword tore through his backside, and her companions drove theirs home for good measure. When it was done, they flung his body at the Moorians’ feet, and we watched their hearts fail. Their spirits broke, and now able to make full use of our magic, we drove them back.

When all was done that night the armada had lost perhaps a dozen ships. We had lost maybe half that number before finding shelter in the dark. Many more had their sails torn and no way to make speed. It didn’t matter. The armada sailed at a crawls pace now, too unsure of what might be lying in the waters ahead. Lord Orin had his day. Zhenyu gave the order to begin repairs, and we labored through the night. We might be late to the battle ahead, but we were damned if we were going to miss it.
-
"You have nothing to teach Eire of War."
Those were the last words my grandfather spoke as we said our farewells. I am third generation born of the once proud Carythian legion, serving Sadeen Moore alongside my father, as he and his father served Caryth before. I am surrounded by men made strong by alchemy; they are not soldiers, but they are stronger than any ox and eager to prove their loyalty to the Good Father. They seek war with Aolia because their lord commands it, but I seek battle with Eire because justice demands it.

"Tell me how you will break the Eire-man grandson. We took his lands, we salted his earth. We took his children and made them slaves. We took his everything, and he made war his only drive. Tell me how you will break an enemy who grows stronger with each thing you take from him."

Some had hoped Eire would not oppose us; some believed they would see the folly and stand aside. Stringing together a navy of broken merchant ships, standing against an armada fully twice their size, it would be an act of suicide. Their admirals are legends; surely they would know there is no hope and keep to shore. But scouts returned with word that Eire was marshaling for war, and my heart leapt for joy. Not only would their wreckage litter the ocean floor, but the blood in my veins, the blood of my father and his father, would have its revenge.

"You have not an admiral among you grandson, just field commanders who think themselves navymen. They think wrong. When you were young I taught you 'fear more an army of sheep lead by a wolf, than an army of wolves lead by a sheep.' Do you remember? This won't be a war, grandson, it will be a lesson.”

The explosions came in the night without warning; our first line of vessels suddenly under assault and taking on water. Barrels floated across our path, occasionally two would collide and explode; no sooner would your eyes clear than another flash would leave you night blind. Men would rush to look out from one ship as another would explode. Oarsmen were caught in a blast between ships, and shrapnel fly through the dark.

"During the rebellion they trapped wells and forges, planted fire in our fields and gas in our larders. I heard men scream 'liberate Eiram' before blowing themselves to vapor, taking a room full of good and proud soldiers with them. Forget your thoughts of fair combat or quarter, grandson, the Eire man fights the way that wins."

Pirate scum. As the explosives struck our front ships, they swept in and struck at the back, seeming more to taunt us than attack. There were a few lucky strikes, and arrows fell harmlessly into thick wood or ocean waters. But now it was our turn.

As they broke off, our commanders ordered pursuit and we gave chase. The cries of our bats pierced the sky as they struck at our aggressors. They Eire ships were fast, but our oarsmen could move a mountain if they needed; it was only a matter of time. We caught up to a foundering ship in the dark, and grapple lines went out as I watched a bat land on its bow. There was an explosion of alchemy and the flash of swordplay. We'd recognize one of our lords anywhere, and with a cry we leapt the gunwales to attack.

"The Eire man will turn your fear against you. Our brethren had suffered too many an ambush, and too many fell to bandit tactics. By the end of the war, one man could yell ‘Free Eire’ as he fled into the forest, and our men would pull up short. "

Impossible. It was just one mage, yet in a heartbeat the battle was over; one mage and a handful of sailors barely fit for battle. No matter, magic lightning struck us down like wheat before the blade. Strangely there was no pain, and as I lay there with steam rising from my clothes, I watched as my lord was struck down. They attacked like a pack of wild dogs, tearing at him from all sides. In moments it was over. Impossible, a Pure Lord defeated by a bloody bitch brigade. Through hazy eyes I watched them put my fellows to the blade as warmth flowed over me. Soon I would be home, and grandfather would be proud... soon...
-
I am a legionnaire of Stoneroost, and we come to this fight fresh from our own. For over a year we have been assailed by darkness. The lich Emilio was out our backs, and Fever Grey terrorized our dreams. Now at last our home is ours again, and we have the armies of Eire to thank for the victory. While our wounds may still be fresh, let no one say that the Biata of Stoneroost do not repay their debts. We have been lead to the sea by our new lords, Amaranthus and Nicodemus. The fleet has formed a barricade off the coast of Kalcadia, centered on four massive vessels the likes of which no one in Laerthan has ever seen before. I am told the island behind us is infested with vampires. If the battle reaches shore, we are all going to die. At our bow, my new lords are saying goodbye, and all humans are ordered off the ship. The Lord Landcharmer is taking a warship directly into the attack. I wish I were going with him. Instead I am to remain here as a guard for the fae. The idea is sickening, and I do not trust them. Too much blood has been spilled between our kinds. Nicodemus says that these are different, given to us by someone named De’Mondia. I do not care, but I will do my duty.

At mid-day, the Moorian armada comes into view over the horizon. Their numbers seem endless, and their ships are twice the size of all but the four dreadnaughts. Sheer intimidation…. And we are afraid. Our line sails forward to meet them a few miles from shore. A horde of giant bats launch themselves into the sky. Our front line charges them at full speed. I want to be in the fight, but our lord holds us at the back line. He is cold, his face betrays less emotion than the skull that lingers on his brow. A mute elf named Nadarin stands next to him, and they quietly watch the carnage unfold. The front lines clash. Burning pitch and magic pass between ships. The enemy sails into a wall of sheer wreckage, and their advance slows to a halt. The battle is engaged, and our lord still watches the sky. I bite my tongue. A few moments more and an arrow of green flame flies from our command ship. Nicodemus turns at last, “Tell them to begin,” he commands one of the fae. I follow her below decks, down into the cargo hold. More fae. Casters by the looks of them. They lay down circles and start to chant. I feel my blood itching under my skin, and my stomach turns. Then, a few moments later, I understand. Pantherghasts…. Human Pantherghasts. Nicodemus is suddenly behind me. “Start rifting them, target their third column of ships in.” I look out a porthole as the fae disappear with their monsters. Across the water I see other ships catapulting bone and iron golems onto the Moorian decks. I imagine the screams that must follow. The Pure Lords are all supposedly in the air. The ritualists begin to chant again.
-
I was born of wind and lightning. For time without memory I drifted among the clouds and danced within the thundering storm. No more. Now I can only glide in this contraption of wood and magic. Our Icon has fallen, one more victim of the sundering and the severance. And we, we ache, we tire, we bleed and we hunger. We are mortal now, elemental kin who have founded a new city on the body of our dead lord. We hunger for life, and though only newly born into the world an enemy has risen to cast us down. I can see their armies below us, huge warships filled with nothing but fanatical rage. Does the mere idea of us so offend? Eire has risen to our defense, and the fleets are now engaged. I can see fires below, smoke is starting to billow into the sky, and now and again I hear the crack and pop of magic and fiery explosions. There is no time to think about it now. The bats are fast approaching. Our gliders outnumber them two to one, but the Pure Lords are leading their charge. As soon as they get close the magic which drives our gliders fades away. We are left to drift on the currents. The bats fly faster, turn harder, razor sharp claws rend our wings and tear through the wooden frames. I watch my friends fall and die. They cannot rift with the Pure Lords so close. We fire back with spells and bottles of burning oil. The advantage of our greater number is fading fast. I hope the Eire ships below are doing better; we are not going to last long in this fight.
-
I am an Eire-man, born and bred. I have watched the darkness creep across our hearts and the undead take dominion over our lands. I have watched loved ones die as we lost the gift of resurrection, and I will always remember this day, when I learned that I could count myself among the Twice-Born. When the Crown called for carpenters and sailors I answered. I found myself assigned to an adventuring ship, given to a group they called the Phalanx. A strange lot, but they said one was guildmaster at Finn Castle, so I assumed they were a hardy bunch. They certainly had no fear of the fight, and when the fleets engaged we flanked the enemy formation and sailed into battle. The enemy ships were twice the size of our own, but our men were better trained and our admirals more experienced at sea. They’d made a grievous mistake sending all of their Pure Lords into the sky, and our magic took an early toll on their fleet. Across decks, I could see a bone golem rending the crew of an entire galleon to pieces. Our hearts began to swell with false hope. The Moorians learned their lesson quick enough, and they started pushing back with gas globes and burning oil. Good men screamed and died as we took heavy fire, and black smoke was starting to choke the air. Maybe that’s why we didn’t notice a thick, unnatural mist rolling in across the waves. Then came the putrid stench of decay. It filled our heads and sent a chill down our spines. Mid battle we were caught in a moment of silence, and then it appeared, with tattered sails and rotted hull. A ghost flip flying the red and grey banner of Legacy sailed out of the fog and crashed headlong into a Moorian galley. Undead began to swarm over the rails and wreck havoc on the crew. And I was glad. A green flag waved frantically on the Moorian deck, and moments later a giant bat descended from the sky. A Pure Lord with fierce, golden eyes leapt onto the top deck and raised his arms high in a grand declaration of power. And now it ends, I thought; now the undead will crumble and our own magic will fade. But then nothing. He raised his arms and the undead paid no heed. The Pure Lord took a defiant step forward, but still nothing, the ancient mariners surged onward with a ravenous hunger. And then I saw him, strolling across the deck clad in furs and a black crystal crackling in his chest. His fangs glistened with fresh blood as he grinned. The Pure Lord moved to draw arms, but it was too late. Bjorn was on him before the sword ever cleared its scabbard. A claw dug into his gut, and those wicked fangs sank into his throat, and no more terrifying thing have ever I seen then the gruesome death that that man suffered then. Black magic swirled about them and swam through his veins, and I could swear I heard his body and soul each scream in separate harmony then. The Pure Lord’s shriveled husk fell to the ground, and again I found myself glad. Let these monsters make their war on each other I thought, and maybe we will make our way home safe tonight. Our captains would have none of it.

“Kill the undead!” he screamed. The elf Jun-Wu seemed a man possessed, the Moorians all but forgotten as he stared at the ghost ship with wrath and rage. The Phalanx leader, Riddick Dale, leapt to our helm and turned our course. Eire ships did not follow, but the Moorians did. Struck hard by the Pure Lords death, four more galleons turned rudder to converge on the undead. Our bow crashed full bore into the ghost ship’s broadside, and in moments all decks were awash with the chaos of a grand melee. Massive brutes, men mutated by alchemy, flooded out from the galleons. All was madness then, as men struck down the undead only to turn and slaughter each other. Bound to the ghost ship, we found ourselves at the center of the chaos. Our deck was quickly overrun. Riddick Dale fought valiantly, and Moorians and mariners both fell to the whirling sweeps of his polearm. A barrage of gas globes laid him low in a cloud of orange smoke. A Moorian soldier drove a spear through his back for good measure. Theodin Hammerfist went down beside him in a blaze of glory. Jun-Wu felled undead by the score in a hail of earth magic, while Michiko defended his side with her flashing sword. Bjorn snapped both of their necks, one in each hand. Our line crumbled, and those few of us who remained fell back below decks, fighting desperately for just a few moments more of life. There was no real hope, we still breathed only because our enemies were busy killing each other. They would make their way down to us soon enough. Aura faded fast from the mystic wood elf, Ondreji, he was down to his last spells. A few quiet moments in the dark below decks, we could hear the slaughter above. Ondreji looked over to his friend Paolo, who was rigging a trap line across the stair well to explosives on both the walls and ceiling. Paolo gave a small nod to his friend’s unasked question and said, “they come down to kill us, trip the line, blow their friends up on the top deck, and blow a hole out the side for us to escape.” It was absurd. I wanted to live and that made it sound brilliant. The fighting drew closer. I remembered the kegs full of explosive powder in the hull one deck below. “Do you think it will work?” Paolo asked. I had no chance to speak before Moorians came crashing through the door and crossed the line. In the next moment all was darkness, and a slim road stretching out to a single point of light in the distance. I felt a strange pull luring me back to the world of flesh. But as I made that first strange trip back to the mortal world of hunger and wanting and despair, I could swear I heard the screams of dying men being consumed by fire.
-
I thank the Queen’s grace for her. I have never seen her before, and still have yet to learn her name, but that any of us on this ship still breathe it is due to her labors. I am a soldier of Eire. I fought in the war against Caryth, and when the call went out for men at arms there was no question I would answer. I kissed my wife, and hugged my son, and gave myself to die in their name. The Lord Galloway assigned me a post on our front line, and I felt great pride as we made our charge against the enemy. The vessels clashed, hulls shattered, and we went down fighting on the decks of sinking ships. As I slipped into the cold waters I thought my life was at its end. Then she came, sailing through the battle on an Elven courier ship, leading a group of lighter, faster boats to steal the wounded from the waiting depths. I was near gone, fading in and out as I succumbed to open wounds and icy cold. When I came to again I was on the deck of a merchant ship at the back of our lines. Four of them had been strung together as a healing flotilla. I can see her across deck, haggard and worn. Her magic is spent, but she has corralled healers from the other ships to man the flotilla and tend the wounded. I hear people shouting for her, and they call her Sun. It is a good name, it suits her. A galleon gets a little too close, and she fires a ballista into the air. It is the most awful shade of green that I have ever seen, and I could swear there was a purple butterfly on it. She shouts curses at no one who can possibly hear her.

A strange wylderkin comes to my side then. She has a shell like a snail and says her name is Helix. She is cold and distant, but polite as she mends my wounds and helps me to my feet. I move toward Sun to say thank you, but fire erupts in the distance. The explosion is massive, and I can see five ships going down together in fire. I could swear I see undead on one of them, and a gaseous form streaks across the sky toward Kalcadia. Sun cries out across the ships, “Send out the sloops for more wounded!” I am ready to fight again, I volunteer. The one called Helix climbs into a boat beside me. She is missing her shell now, and as we dart through the battlefield she seems to scan every ship with cold and calculating eyes. She does not acknowledge the wounded as we haul them onto our deck. I do not think I like her, but she does her job and her healing magic works as well as any other’s. When we are full we turn back to the flotilla. The deck and cabins below are crowded with the wounded. Healers scurry to and fro, some with magic, some just with bandages. Across the waters, ships burn and men scream. I do not know how many hundreds or thousands will die today. But I know how many will live for the work of these brave women and men. We fought and bled, and then they saved our lives.
-
For the second time in less than an hour, I watched as the battle turned and reversed itself utterly. At the start, when our vessels engaged with the forces of Eire, there was a cascade of siege weapons on the ocean, our front line giving better than it got, sinking some of their smaller ships before they were even in range to attack. Then in a heartbeat, all had changed. From out of nowhere beasts, horrors only magic could dream up, appeared on our more rearward ships and attacked our men.
No, not attacked… murdered.

We struck them with all that we had, but they were immune to steel. Our soldiers fought as bravely as one can when the enemy is invulnerable; some tried to grapple with monsters of shadow and steel and haul them overboard; still others tried boxing together with great shields to protect themselves. It was all for naught. They moved as a whirlwind of claws and teeth, cutting, ripping, tearing, until soon our decks were slick with blood. We paid the butchers tab in Moorian blood, our soldiers dying by the dozens, for these creatures seemed to live only to kill men. Soon other ships of Eire lead by fire-kin wearing paladins colors joined the attack, striking from a distance, knowing we couldn’t possibly attack them while these beasts were in our midst.

Then, the Pure Lords arrived.

All of our hearts rejoiced as we heard the bats, and our lords leapt from their backs and went on the attack. I watched as Pure Lord Lucien landed but a few paces away. A creature growled at him as he stared, until it simply vanished. All about us the enemy’s magic was undone wherever a Pure Lord landed; what was a terrible force before, was no more than a whisper now.

Lucien looked about, and with a single question marshaled our forces and gathered our oarsmen: “Who wants payback?” he snarled. Cheers went up from our few ships, and he pointed with his sword at those who moments ago had fired upon us. “Get me to the Paladin,” he cried.

The ships of Eire tried to flee; they may as well have tried to outrun a hurricane. Had we not spent the last half an hour facing an invincible enemy, we might’ve slowed. Had they not attacked us when we were powerless to strike back, we might have waited. Had our lord not commanded with such fury, we might have hesitated. We roared with an anger born of watching good men die; they hadn’t a chance. Our wrath was as savage as it was just. In the blink of an eye, five Eiran vessels were under siege; no quarter was asked, and none would be given.

I watched as the Paladin stepped forward to meet Lucien. Were I less consumed with bloodlust, I would no doubt have admired her courage. You could see it in her face; she knew it was her doom. She drew up full before him, and then stopped, a puzzled look upon her face.

“I… I know you…” she started, then hesitated. Lucien struck fast – impossibly fast – burying his blade to the hilt in her chest. Her eyes went wide and stared at him as he lifted her off the ground with his other arm.

“Tell it to someone who cares, Ember.” He drew his blade and beheaded her before tossing her body in the water. In a few moments it was over; they were dead to a man, yet our bloodlust remained. Lucien pointed to the front, where our men were heavily engaged, and he called out for more. Cheers erupt around me, yet as we moved to rejoin the battle a thought struck me:

Were they not following the orders of their lords just as we had followed ours? Four days ago, I was a blacksmith, as no doubt were some of the men we killed; Four days from now I hope only to be home with my family, as no doubt these men did. Yet we cheered for their blood, as they cheered for ours. Were our two peoples really so very different?
-
I am a farmer, my hands more accustomed to pitch fork or shovel then the spear I grip now. What good is it anyway out here on the sea? It doesn’t matter, it is not likely I’ll take part in the fight and I am glad for it. I have found myself stationed on the Princess’s ship, and Galloway will not risk her in the battle. So we sat the line, moored next to a massive dreadnaught flying a phoenix flag. It hasn’t stopped her though. An elemental kin has been rifting her back and forth, her polearm and clothes are well bloodied now. Good for her I say. I may not have the courage for this fight, but I am glad to see our Queen’s own blood putting herself to the task. I see why she is so loved now, and I wish I were a better man. Something changed then, a feeling that rippled through the air and even laymen like me knew the battle was about to turn. Giant bats descended from the sky, maybe a dozen, and spread themselves out across the Moorian armada. I could hear Arianne curse under her breath and she turned to the kin beside her. “The Pure Lords are in the fleet, no more rifting.” We’d all heard of these men, and they’d become a thing of fear. Fanatics and zealots who could undo the fabric the magic with a thought or word. Reports started coming in, across the battle our golems fell down like worthless slabs, the pantherghasts disappeared, and fae, wood elves, and elemental kin just gave into despair and let themselves die. It’s a hard fight now, our soldiers forced to board and take them man on man. We gather along the port side rail and the Princess watches the fight anxiously, she studies every shift and turn and wrings her hands around the shaft of her weapon. We do not hear them behind us.

Our only warning is the stifled groans of the dying and the wet thud of swords tearing through the men’s backsides. We spin around in shock and a cry of alarm. They are horrible, mutated things. Frogmen twisted by alchemy, with slick green skin mottled with patches of blue or black or red. The leap across the deck with impossible strength, swat men about with massive webbed hands and deep rumbling groans echoing from their throats. We are grouped too tight, and men trying to evade the sword stroke stumble into each other and bring the lot of us to our knees. The press of bodies slams the Princess into the portside rail, and she falls back prone. A frog man raises its sword, and horror takes my heart. Our kingdom’s most beloved child, the light of our new empire, was about to die before my eyes. The stroke descends, and is met by a black shield, held by a blue clad elf kneeling defiantly over our princess. He throws his weight upwards, and drives the frog man back on its feet as he follows with a thrust that opens the monster’s gut. Arianne regains her feet, and calls the line to order. We start to push back the invaders, and I stand beside the elf, whom the Princess calls Avian. I find a strength and courage I have never known before. He lets fly with both sword and spell, and next to him an ogre named Thrak hews the frogmen into pieces with a massive polearm. It is not enough. A wounded frog leaps madly, and takes Avian with him over the side to the reddening waters below. The ogre dives overboard to save him, but it is too late. We drive the last of the monsters from our ship, but the damage is done and many lives lost. By the time we recover our wounded Avian’s life has passed, his body fading in Thrak’s arms as we try to haul them onto deck. Arianne lays a hand on his cloak and sword for just a moment, but there is not time to mourn. Cadres of frogmen have hit other ships in the back line. We are all in disarray. Orders are passed, flags wave and ships heave to as we regroup and redeploy our men. In the distance I can see ships cresting the horizon. The harriers that sailed away the day before have at last returned to rejoin the fight. The pirates attack the enemy’s rear line, and this war is far from over. But not far away, a terrible rumbling and grating is heard.
-
I have always loved the sea. Its ebb and flow a rhythmic dance, its salty tears as sweet as wine, and in the thunderous crash of waves, I heard all the poetry of love and heartbreak. For three years I have worn a proud name, First Mate aboard the Sundragon. But there is no sweet wine today. It has been replaced by the smell of iron, blood, and the char of human bone. I fear my name today, and these red waters are not my home. Instead it is a home to beasts that should not be. Clockwork groans and echoes wrong, the depths give birth a thing of steel, jagged plates with warps and rust, red glass eyes and hunchback men inside. A Leviathan made from mankind’s madness, it is five ships long and swaying recklessly. All hope seems lost as two ships sink. Then three. Then four. A brutal lunge, a dreadnaught’s stern is crushed to splinters. Our Admiral eyes the white flag.

Pain cries out for pain, and the dark heart of our new world is always glad to answer. Our Deadlands, our dreadlands, our lost Laerthan, it hears the anguish and misery that fills men’s souls, and uses it to slake a black and terrible thirst. And what more anguish and misery could there be then on this red field at sea where men killed men, each so sure of their own righteousness. And so it rose, from the coldest depths where no light had ever been known. Its skin is black as the void, slick as oil and trailing a hundred inhuman tentacles. A dozen eyes of cloudy blue, a maw filled with countless ivory needles, and thick vapors rolling off its skin to fill our heads with the stench of rotting meat. Men had brought forth a Leviathan of clockwork and iron, but Laerthan had brought forth fear and given it flesh, a Beast of the Brine. It broke the waters at the battle line, where the blood and death lay thickest upon the waves. Moorian and Eire ship alike are torn asunder as the Beast passes casually by. A chorus of whispers fills our ears, sings despair into our bones, and our Biata as one stop motionless and entranced. The Great Beast sways a moment, seems to search the air, and then, sensing something we could not, turns toward the center of the Moorian fleet and begins to slither its way through the waters.

I hear a huzzah and a cheer, and I think our men must have been struck mad. So I turn, and clinging to the metal hide, our Lord’s own squire, shining in sunlight and mercury, has leapt upon the Leviathan’s neck. Fierce and frantic, Kainen tears at the rusted scales. He stabs his sword, pries plates loose and drops inside. A creak, a moan, screams echo in its hollowed heart. A listless lunge at nothing, and I know the soulless beast is filled with death. It rises once more, the squire’s hands on rod and lever.

The great Beast comes upon its mark! There, at the center of the Moorian armada, a galleon near twice the size of any other. It sits high in the water, and makes no move for its own defense. Resigned to death it seems. Alas, was not to be. The Beast draws close, and raises for the strike. And then it howls from some unseen blow. Recoils from a force we cannot see. It shudders and writhes, and our Biata cry in agony. Our feathered friends fall unto their knees. The Beast lashes out, lays waste to all nearby. The Leviathan creaks and lumbers, its gear turning wrong. Kainen at its helm, desperate eyed in a cracking shell. A final lunge, a clash and roar, black skin is bloodied, and metal hide torn. The nightmares did collide, and tumble as one through the breaking tide. And down into the brine they fall, all three are gone, and war no more. Silence follows in their wake. Both sides unsure, both sides relieved, a single cheer resounds, takes root, and is echoed from every mortal mouth.
-
“We matter here.” My eyes would cry as I say these words, for they mean that much to me. For years I toiled as a farmer, until the sundering took that from me. Unable to pay my lord’s duty, he then took my land from me. My son, barely a boy at the time, did not understand. We tried to tell him why the ‘men with steel’ would drive us from our home, but his child’s mind couldn’t understand. Finally I snapped at him, “Because I’m a farmer who can’t farm, boy; because I don’t matter anymore.” And my boy looked at me then, and with the words of complete sincerity only a child can manage, hugged me tight and said, “you matter to me papa.”

On that day I knew what it was to be truly loved. And since that day, I’ve worked to find a place to raise my family, where lords won’t take more than their share, or demand the impossible. I once hoped Sadeen Moore was such a place, and today I know it is. For today, I watched, as a beast more terrible than nightmares was repelled… No, not repelled, was rebuked; rebuked by the presence of a man so good, the evil in this dragons’ soul recoiled from his mere presence. It bellowed and raged; its wrath was fearsome to behold, yet it could not stand before our Good Father.

Today I watched as a creature of legend was laid low by the willpower of a simple man, a man who wants to lead the world to peace; free from Icons or tyrants, or magic that serves only the mighty and the rich. Today I watched as he sacrificed his war machine, a great beast of the ocean, to lay the briny serpent low and spare the lives of countless mortal men. It struck equally at our forces and theirs. Lesser lords would have let the numbers decide, and let the beast rage on knowing it costs our enemy more than it would cost us. But not the Good Father. He would not let his people die for mere advantage; he saw his people in need, and sacrificed his greatest weapon that we might be saved. I weep for joy as I say these things, for we have truly found our place. We matter here, my boy; we matter to the Good Father.
-
There was a strange moment of silence after the two monsters sank into the water. I had heard that Sadeen Moor meddled with clockwork weapons, but never could I have imagined such an iron Leviathan as they had brought to bear. But then again, I could neither have imagined such a foul abomination living beneath these waters as that tentacled Beast of the Brine. It was a stark reminder that these Deadlands were a foreign place to all of us now. For a man like me, who has spent his whole life unraveling the mysteries of the Arcanum, it was a truly terrifying thought. I only had a moment to consider it as the two fleets surveyed what remained of their ships. So many lives lost on both sides, someone soon would have to make the choice, signal the withdrawal, or commit themselves to losing everything in the name of victory.

The undeclared ceasefire broke as two ships began to move. The fearsome battle between Beast and Leviathan had opened up a swath in both our lines. A path was clear to the oversized galleon that surely carried the Good Father on her deck. Likewise, the Leviathan’s attack had broken our barricade line. Both sides were vulnerable, and ships of both fleets set sail to take advantage. Three warships, flying the white and silver of newfound Stoneroost, drive headlong into the breach on direct course for the Good Father’s ship. Standing proud on the lead ship’s bow, our new and valiant Lord Amaranthus commands the charge. In mirrored time, five galleons set course for the gap in our blockade. If they wedge our line further apart all will be undone. Sail and oar pushed them forward at impossible speed, but Kainen’s courage and sacrifice have emboldened his companions to brave action. Kostantinos Sunderdragon’s voice resounds across the decks, and three ships turn course to intercept. Men clamor and cheer, they are rowdy now and anxious for the fight. Fuzzy’s revenge darts out ahead of the rest, while Sunderdragon’s Revenge and the Dranoc follow close behind. It is a desperate race. The ships close, arrow and ballista fire shoot through the air. Fuzzy’s Revenge cannot hope to last long, but they hold their course. So close now, they attack the lead galleon’s rudder. It breaks apart, and in near perfect time, Sunderdragon’s two warships collide with the galleon’s broadside. The crack of wooden frames could be heard from all three ships. The galleon spins and flounders, listing heavy onto its starboard side. Its helpless frame clogs the breach in our line. The other galleons have to veer and slow. Boarding lines are thrown, and crews draw blades.

Giant oarsmen surge onto the decks. I had never seen a mouse kill a giant before, but Masha’s blade is sharp. Nix dances quick beside her, and behind them both Figment and Avalon erupt with lightning and fire. On another galleon’s deck, the last of Fuzzy’s crew make their final stand. Their ship had sunk as they scrambled onto the enemy vessel. Fair Morgan slips her blade into backsides until at last she is surrounded. She grins as she falls in blood. Kostantinos does his best to keep his people standing on Sunderdragon’s Revenge, Ash and Parzival defending his sides. For a moment it seems they are to be overwhelmed and all hands lost. Reinforcements arrive. A dozen ships from the Valdanis fleet have closed on the melee. Magic and arrows sail, and the tide turns quick. The galleons are soon all overrun. For our own, one ship is sunk, and the Dranoc will not float much longer. Most of their crews are fallen. Some of the wounded will be recovered in time, many will not. But the breach is sealed, our line holds strong, and their bravery will be remembered in the days ahead. Bolts of lightning start to flash across the sky, and across the waters I cannot see Amaranthus’s ships anymore. At least a dozen ships have gathered where his used to be.

Smoke and fire rises from their center.
-
The great beast in its rage had cut a swath through our fleet, a great hole in our armada leading straight to our heart. Straight to the Good Father’s vessel. The next few moments unfolded slow; we let out a cry for action as I saw one of their few warships hoist sails and cut a path into the breach. A Biata in shining armor with long red hair stood foremost on their ship shouting commands at his men. All about their vessel archers and mages unleashed their weapons, disengaging from any of our ships that could slow them down. I watched as their commander grew closer, rage and anticipation playing across his feathered brow.

For good or ill, be it their victory or ours, let it be known these men displayed a discipline I did not expect to find in an army of pirates and privateers. Such a charge was careless, reckless even; it was doomed to fail before it started. In truth, these men were sailing to their demise. But it had to be tried.

Even the greenest soldier and eldest commander alike would agree; were they to reach the Good Father, this war would be over in a single stroke. It was an impossible feat, but if it somehow worked our armada would break. No matter how long the odds, it had to be tried.

Had they faced any other peoples they might have succeeded, but our men had learned their lessons well this day. Sadeen Moore may be inexperienced at sea, but we are one people driven to one purpose. The Good Father was in danger, and nothing else mattered.

A call went out and our galleons turned toward the charge. All ships took up their oars, and even those engaged in other fights changed their course willing to die in sacrifice for our beloved lord. Wood creaked under renewed strength; oars snapped under the pressure. The enemy’s sails were rigged and re-rigged; their cries matched our cries, the Biata screaming orders like a man possessed. They entered the channel as ropes and grapples were launched from our ships, anything to slow them down. Their men hacked at line after line even though they knew it was futile.

I could hear their commander shout as their path was blocked. All his rage and frustration came out in a single yell as our ships closed in around him, then crashed together, stopping his advance cold. They charged forward from their deck to ours, the commander and his retinue. In any other time or place the arrogance of such an act would be laughable, a dozen men leading a charge against an entire galleon.

It was magnificent valor. How I wish these men could have seen reason! How I wish such noble actions could have served a noble cause. For though they defended a lie, their dedication was clear. But dedication can only get you so far. I raised a sword in salute, as our soldiers have surrounded them.

“I give you full marks for courage. Now lay down your arms, and you will be spared. Our numbers are too great, and you know you cannot win.” Their commander peered at me, then all about him. A slim smile slipped across his lips, and we all knew how this would end. Indeed, it was the only way it could.
-
I will not believe we have survived the Sundering only to die today. We have defied all and achieved too much to lose it now. We have made a city in the sky, survived the undead horrors below, and driven back one assault after another. This will not be our end. Our Baroness stands defiant at Aolia’s edge, peering through the clouds. Blue lightening streaks through her veins, and her flaxen hair drifts in the wind. I am worn and weary, and have made two passes already against the sky riders that assail us. Our wing had cracked in the last, and we returned to Aolia to repair and re-supply. I did not think we were going to last this long, but our battle turned when half the Pure Lords descended to protect their ships. We struck back hard with our magic then, and made the riders pay for the early blood they had taken. We are nearly ready to take flight again. A few feet away one of the elven Heirophan feeds an elixir to her pet. The lightning bat makes me uneasy, but these elves have fought hard in our defense. This one’s eyes are filled with constant anger, and her face is covered with tattoos. She says her name is Sevaria, she will fly our escort as we make a pass to rain fire on the ships below. I am glad.

We take to the sky. It is a few moments drifting on the wind before we reach the fight. We fly into a veritable wall of black smoke rising from the battle below. It chokes and blinds. There is an acrid taste, and orange dust, and an awful smell. “What is that?” I shout across the wind. “Ash from the burning dead,” she says, “try not to swallow.” I don’t want to know how she knows that. The air seems so empty now, so few of us left on either side. But then it comes, that familiar screech and the sound of flapping wings. The lightning that powers our glider dies, the elemental who sits behind me grows weak, and now I am afraid. “Pure Lord!” I shout. They always know where to find us. Sevaria did not need to be told. She twists and turns gracefully on the wind to face the rider fast approaching from our rear. I have never seen so much hatred in anyone’s eyes as I did then. She screams a name into the wind. Samuel, I think. They both draw swords. They pass, they clash, he cuts her deep across her shield arm. They circle round and wide, between them is a vortex of rage and violence, and I am caught in its center. Another pass, she keeps her distance, and throws spell after spell. She had to know it would do no good. Just a little longer though, keep him at bay just a little while more and we will set a galleon ablaze.

Another screech tears through the wind, and from out of the black smoke a second bat flies into the fray. The elf has no chance, not against two of them. Two gas globes zip by her in the air, and a third breaks on her poison shield. She howls in rage, and stares venom at the second rider. I can hear her curses over the wind. Did she just call him by name? I turn hard on the wind, and try to fight them with her. We do little good before the second rider cuts our wing and sends us spiraling out of the fight. Above us now, they pass and clash again. Sevaria and Samuel both are bled, but the second rider cuts deep into her bat. It’s almost over now, she is going to die, and all of us know it. Is that regret in the second rider’s eyes? The Pure Lord circles for his final strike, flies at her head on with sword raised and smiling. For a moment I think I hear her laughing, but she would have to be mad. The air between them shrinks, and she lets go her sword. Then, one last scream of rage as they close within reach. She leaps from her saddle across the open sky. The Pure Lord is too close, cannot turn fast enough, and I am sure his smile is gone. Together they fall, black and orange motes among the clouds, and a lone rider circles in the sky where once they were. The magic that drives our glider sparks back to life. I make a quiet promise then, at least two ships will burn in her name. My companion lights the oil.
-
Home. We are so very far from home. How many days and weeks across the mist did we sail? And what has come of the men that did not make the journey? More than forty-three ships set sail from Wayside, and while the vessels all made it their crews did not. Most are at half number, some are less, the missing men lost to the mists. I did not know why the Master Hartsboon was so keen to send us to this fight, nor why our Lady Regent Fallingstar was so willing to allow it. But now I begin to understand, for truly this land is cursed. The younger elves among us grew sick from the moment we arrived. The Biata are hearing voices, and the Mystic Wood Elves have lost all sense of laughter and joy. And from the moment we arrived, every human in our fleet has been choking on the taste of ash. Nothing is as it should be here. Yet still, these people of Eire refuse to yield.

Their fleet was not what I expected. Perhaps one hundred ships to start, all of them dwarfed by the Dreadnaughts we brought from Valdanis. I see why they called for such aid. They used our ships to center the blockade, and called us the last line of defense. I suppose it is a sound strategy, but I think they were shamed to ask us to die in their fight. And in all the years that I have served, against Blood Pirates on the open sea and Thargathians at our border, never have I seen a fight like this. Behind us is a city in the sky, and below it is an island that reeks entirely of undeath. Still, we turn our arms against a fleet of men. How abhorrent could this enemy be to deserve such wrath and fear? Then the galleons came, and the bats flew, and monsters rose from the ocean depths. And I began to understand. Still these men of Eire refused to yield.

The fleets engaged, ships burned and men died, and we of Valdanis held the line and waited. The bats descended, and one strafed our starboard side. He did not attack, only scanned our deck as though to study to us. But as he passed we could feel all magic die beneath his gaze. Wood elves wept, enchantments faded, and a mage who had stored his spirit turned into a ghost. These are not men we fight, for no man should be able to undo nature so. The monsters rose soon after. The black Beast was a frightening thing, but one at least that I could understand. Many are the monstrous things of chaos and ooze that dwell in the black places and hunger for the living. Their legends fill the tales of every land that’s ever been, as do the heroes who have struck them down. Not so that thing of clockwork and iron. Not so that man made monstrosity of jagged steel and rust. What madness could consume the mind that thinks to make such a thing? Yet what valor, for one man to throw himself upon it that lays waste whole ships. What bravery, for so few to charge headlong into the enemy host. These men seem to know no more of this Aolia than I do, but still they fight for them to their last breathe. I begin to understand these Eire-men who refuse to yield.
 
The end is coming quick now. All the signs are there. One side will flee, or all will perish. A horn resounds through the enemy fleet, and a red flag waves. We know these signs. All their ships that remain put oars to water, and as one begin a last, desperate push to break our line and reach the shore. It is time. I look to our helm. Our captain orders all sails raised and turns the Lifestorm headlong into battle. All hail my lord, Vassal Knight Jehan Wyldweaver. Now we show them that we soldiers of Valdanis came to fight, and will not yield.

There are no more brilliant tactics. No clever maneuvers that will bring anyone victory. This fight will be won hard, toe-to-toe on blood soaked decks with sword and shield and spell. The blockade transforms into a grand melee, and powers are unleashed that I had never dreamt of before. Massive bolts of lightning crack down from the sky into the Moorian masts. Here and there among our own decks I see a woman with lightning in her veins rifting to and fro. The wind seems to follow wherever she goes. Amidst the battle I can see some few of the brave men that I had met within our fleet. The dark elf Morai blazes his way across a galleon’s deck. Not far off, the adventurer Elnai is covered in Moorian blood. And we, we have brought heroes of our own. Captain Marcena of Salamis leads his pirates into the enemy flank. They swarm the galleons like the scoundrels they are, and never have I been so glad for it. The brothers Desamere call for a charge, and I am proud to follow them. Bartholomew leads the way, and cleaves into the Moorian ranks. Dranzen and Quily are close behind and guarding his back. Kalin and Hengin mend their wounds as quick as they are made, and keep our warriors fighting strong. And Eldadiril, ever so quiet, if I had not known to look I would never have seem him slipping through the fight stabbing his dagger into kidneys and backsides. Some few Moorians slip past us to the Lifestorm’s deck. It is a grave mistake. They meet a wall of blades as Sir Jehan spells them down from above. This is the fight we came for.

I cannot say how long it went. But I know that with every stroke, as our arms tired, our hearts grew stronger. This fight was ours to take. Past the waves of swords and violence, I could see the Moorian’s flagship taking fire. And then they fell, two specs from the sky, orange and black, onto the flagship’s deck with a thunderous crack. Flasks of burning oil soon followed from the clouds. The air was ours, and gliders passed above dropping fire in their wake. A black flag waved across the flagship’s deck. Every Moorian man and ship still able to fight cut loose with all that they had left. It was a fearsome moment in time. Then a deafening wail split the air, and the oversized galleon’s stern burst outward into splinters. A giant bat, the size of a warship at the least, erupted from within the vessel’s hold. A small carriage was lashed to its back. Nothing that large should have moved so fast, but in only moments the beast was just a spot on the horizon, fading fast into the setting sun. And it was done. Their precious Good Father had fled the fight; his zealots had covered his escape with their lives. The Moorian soldiers who still lived leap desperately for their own ships, and the remaining galleons break from the fray and make for open sea. The Eire-men are content to let them flee, their battle won.

But not all, it seems, are so ready to be turned aside. There is a flash of light, and a shimmering wave pulses through the air. A single heartbeat is heard by all. It lasts only a moment and all heads turn. On the deck of an Eire ship two men have met, and drawn all eyes. On his knees and all in black, a wild-eyed Pure Lord stares at a simple man in peasant clothes. But lo, how this simple man did glow, the aura of magic so strong even we soldiers could feel the flowing tide of elements. For a moment I thought I saw the Pure Lord weep. It was just a moment though. He rises slowly, and edges back toward the bat that waits behind him. He takes to the air, circles once, raises his sword and cries out, “For Sadeen Moore!” A handful of sky riders heed the battle cry. And, as the sky fades to twilight, this last cadre of riders disappears into the shadows of the island behind us. It does not matter. This war is ours, though the cost is high.
-
This was not the war that we were promised. This was not the clarion call we were to send across the world. The armies did not give way, and the island did not fall. Good Father loomed silent looking down on Samuel’s broken body. He had crashed through the top deck, and lay below twisted and entangled around some orange clad elf. Our most beloved lord handed me that black flag without a word, and then he made for the sky. The battle was lost, our fleet was broken, and how many hundreds of men dead… for what? But all is not yet lost. Across the decks, Edric still remains! I do not know the man he faces, but the sorcerer’s power is clear. Our Pure Lord leaps upon his bat and rallies the riders for one last charge. Yes, better this way. This was not the war that we were promised, but still we will leave our mark. Into the shadows of undeath we will fly, and Edric will show them the power of our truth. And, when they have fled and we are strong, mark my words, that island still will fall.
-
Epilogue:

It is a strange thing to watch this fight end from the shadows. What Vansir there remains in me still yearns for the battle and the glory. But so be it. I offered our aid, and they made their choice. They will come to regret it soon enough. Their armies are broken, and their resources spent. It will take years to regain what they have lost today. And we will never give them that chance. Our power grows with every day, with every inch left of this world that the Withering claims. The new life of this island is all the proof that anyone needs. Score upon score of vampire kin flock to my side as they feel the pull of Void within me. How many more will join their ranks before the night is done, when wounded men cast to the waters at last make their way shore? Or those fools that now fly overhead in a desperate gamble of mortal pride. We alone are beyond such things now. We have learned from the darkness and are content to bide our time. Soon they will see that what we offer is salvation. A new order at last at peace with the new balance of our tainted world. For now though, we will let them revel in a fruitless victory. They fought hard, and broke an enemy that we too wanted to destroy. So we will give them a moment’s respite, and let no one say we have no honor left in us. We remember what it means far more than they. So let them cheer, and let them drink, and tell stories of the day’s heroic feats. Soon enough they will part, their allies drifting back across the mists. But we, we will remain. For we are this world’s true Legacy. And soon these men of Eire, full of pride who will not yield, will learn that the only true victor today was us.

And to the fools of Sadeen Moore, this alone I promise. I have lost one ship today, but before you see the shores of home again I will take two of yours to replace it.
 
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