S02 – The Antinium Wars (Pt.4)

Dear readers, it is not in my nature to exaggerate or lie. I, Krysyl Wordsmith, attempt to tell you the most unbiased of accounts possible. But I cannot suppress my patriotic pride for my people. And the following account of the Siege of Liscor by the Necromancer, Az’kerash, is almost impossible to tell without appreciating the grave odds of the struggle, the desperation, and above all, the hope and courage exhibited by the brave Drakes of Liscor and the hero Zel Shivertail himself.

Consider it, dear readers. Liscor imperiled once more and this time the Necromancer unleashing his undead hordes on the gateway to the southern continent, attempting to succeed where the Antinium had failed nearly a decade ago. And oh, but he was succeeding. Liscor’s defenses had been improved since the last war, their walls built higher and spelled with new enchantments. But the Necromancer had brought an army capable of destroying all but a Walled City, and with every fallen soldier his forces grew.

And what was the Drake high command doing? Nothing! They were fighting the Antinium on every front and now facing a Goblin King’s invasion as well. Who could they send? Who could rally an army strong enough to destroy the Necromancer and break his siege?

The Tidebreaker would. For his late comrade General Sserys, to save his friend’s beloved city he gathered three other Drake armies, each lead by a [General] of the Drake cities. I urge you to imagine it. Four [Generals] marched on the Necromancer. And each one increased the strength of the combined army they led until it was unstoppable.

This technique of ‘stacking’ high-level commanders and leaders has been used to great effect across the world; indeed, in the last Izril-Terandrian war, the Human armies were pathetically crushed by superior Drake forces who sent in multiple [Commander] classes into each battle, allowing them to utilize Skill-based tactics and enhance their army’s fighting quality far beyond the Terandrian armies. (Of course, the individual ability of each Drake soldier over the Human soldiers may have also played a part in such victories.)

Zel Shivertail had created a force capable of wiping out the Necromancer despite his great power. Four [Generals] should have broken the back of his army within a day. But instead the Necromancer slew General Hekiss, Vusso, and then Misa with his fell magics, turning the tides of battle in an instant.

How? How could he slay the pride of the Drakes with such contemptuous ease? It seems that the Drakes, the Humans, and perhaps even the Goblin Lord and Antinium underestimated him. The Necromancer was no mere distraction from the war—he was a side unto himself! He had the magical prowess to destroy enemy armies and [Generals] from afar; shielded by his undead he could fight at his leisure, overrunning cities with ease.

He destroyed every army that he encountered, save for the Goblin King’s army. Even an Antinium army sent north was obliterated, although not made into undead. It appears even the Necromancer has standards for his undead—or that the Antinium made for poor corpses.

Regardless, the hope of salvation for Liscor had turned into a nightmarish situation as the Drake army sent to liberate the city found itself on the brink of being wiped out. And perhaps they would have been. The Necromancer ordered his undead to encircle the army and Liscor, hoping to swell his deathless horde further. But he failed to destroy the Drake army on the third day, and the fourth, and every day after that. For one simple reason:

He could not kill the Tidebreaker.

Not by magic, not by overwhelming numbers or ambush! General Zel Shivertail remained on the battlefield despite Az’kerash’s repeated assaults on him day after day. The famed [General of the Line] refused to retreat, and it was his rallying presence and Skills that kept the Drake armies and the valiant defenders of Liscor from folding under the Necromancer’s devastating attacks.

And yet, dear readers, Zel Shivertail’s weakness became apparent as he failed to dispatch the Necromancer despite charging into enemy lines again and again. The Tidebreaker is known to be the best defensive [General] in Liscor, and indeed, perhaps the world.

Unlike the late General Sserys who was known for his offensive strategies, Zel Shivertail’s Skills mainly revolve around defensive formations and holding the line, despite his exceptional personal combat prowess. Thus, he was unable to launch a decisive strike and corner the Necromancer—when he would charge Az’kerash’s position the Necromancer would screen himself with his undead troops or disappear.

And so the battle became a deadly stalemate, as both armies refused to retreat. So long as the Necromancer lived, the undead would continue rising, empowered by their dark master. And so long as Zel Shivertail refused to fall, the Drakes fought on. And yet, and yet dear reader, the undead began to triumph.

For every Drake that fell at Liscor, an undead zombie or ghoul would rise in its place. And Az’kerash’s own magical mastery allowed him to create a number of greater undead each day. Meanwhile, the people of Liscor and Zel Shivertail’s own army were finite in number. The siege wore on as Zel Shivertail requested urgent reinforcements to defeat the Necromancer. Alas, the Drake high command was once again unable to act.

The Antinium were sweeping down from their Hives, and worse, the Goblin King’s armies had also begun to march. Unlike the Human campaign in the north, Velan the Kind left the strategy in the south to only one of his Goblin Lords, if the mightiest of them.

Tallis the Stormbreaker.

The great [Shaman] of the Goblin armies came late to the war between the Antinium and Drakes. He began by sacking port cities along the western coast, and then slowly moved inland. The Drake armies were no match for his overwhelming magical might, and he routed armies with contemptuous ease. Drakes across the continent despaired hearing of Tallis Stormbreaker’s advance, because the Antinium were already sieging Pallass and Zeres, threatening to once again cut the continent in two.

But here history takes a fortunate turn. Because as luck would have it, the Goblin Lord’s advance sent him perilously close to an Antinium Hive. And the thoughtless, foolish Antinium saw his armies not as a potential ally, but simply as another threat. They sent Xrn, the Small Queen to deal with Tallis Stormbreaker as they had every other army. And here the Antinium suffered their first great defeat of the war. The Stormbreaker annihilated the Antinium army with a single spell within ten minutes of the Antinium charging his army.

 

“That cannot be right.”

Pivr stared at Tersk as the Prognugator of the Armored Antinium paused with the history book in his hands. Tersk didn’t reply. He was staring in shock at the words on the page. He had not known the history of the Second Antinium War in any great detail. To hear of an army destroyed so easily—

“An entire army? Destroyed by a Goblin?”

He looked up and across the campfire at the blue Antinium sitting there. Xrn looked up, her eyes shining with bright orange and red lights that illuminated the dark night like distant stars.

“Prognugator Xrn. Is this true?”

“It cannot be! We cannot have lost to Goblins!

Pivr insisted loudly. He fanned his wings in agitation, moving around the fire and grabbing for the book Tersk was reading from.

“Give me that.”

He snatched the book and read the passage. He recoiled in disbelief and turned to Xrn.

“This book is lying. It must be.”

“Must it? Why must it lie, Pivr? Because you do not like the truth? This Krsysl Wordsmith exaggerates his history and twists the facts to suit his narrative, but he does not make up false events. Tallis Stormbreaker destroyed the first army we sent against him. And the second and third.”

The other Antinium stared at Xrn in horrified silence. Pivr’s wings fanned wide and his mandibles leaked a bit of the acidic bile he had been engineered to produce. Tersk snatched the book back before the acid could land on it.

“That is—we are the Antinium. We cannot be defeated so easily. You were there! This book said you led the first army. How could you have allowed him to triumph?”

The Antinium went still. Xrn sat up slowly and Pivr broke off speaking, realizing he might have erred. He backed up a bit as the warm lights in Xrn’s eyes became cold, turning blue and frosty grey.

“Allowed? I allowed him nothing, Pivr. The Stormbreaker took. That was the might of the Goblin King and his Goblin Lords. They destroyed the army I led against them, and I was helpless to fight back. We underestimated the Goblins, Pivr. We did not know what they could do. As it says in the book, Tallis broke my army with a single spell.”

“How?”

Tersk leaned forwards, his hands shaking on the book. He’d read ahead and seen no details of the battle. Xrn looked at him and the cold lights in her eyes changed. They became a swirling vortex, a mass of colors vanishing into a pinpoint in the center of her eyes. Tersk shuddered and looked away, but Xrn’s voice was kind and sad as she replied.

“Oh, it was very simple. Tallis Stormbreaker was the Goblin King’s personal [Shaman]. He possessed the might of his people and his magic reflected that. When we charged his army he cast one spell. One simple spell, with such a simple effect.”

Xrn looked past the others, into the depths of the fire. The wind began to blow as she continued, her voice lost in the past.

“He opened a hole into the sky.”

 

—-

 

There was a hole in the sky. A hole as small as your hand at first. So small you’d never see it. But then it grew, widening until the clouds were sucked into it, until it became a vortex, a gaping rift that dragged everything upwards, tearing up trees, sucking up rocks and dirt and everything below it.

Xrn saw the spiral appear in the sky as the Antinium army around her surged across the dry flatlands. They charged towards the Goblin army, towards the Goblin [Shaman] whose hands shone like the sun.

So brave. So simple. Xrn screamed at them to stop. She raised her staff and tried to dispel the grand magic overhead. But it was like throwing all her weight against a mountain. The hole in the sky widened and then began to pull.

Antinium Soldiers, racing across the ground in the tens of thousands began to slow as they lost their traction on the ground. And then they lost their footing and began to float. Xrn saw their arms flailing in confusion as the winds blew them upwards. She heard the howl now, a terrible sound that was louder than a tornado and deeper than the roar of the ocean. The sky tore and her army was sucked into that void in space.

Across the battlefield, Tallis Stormbreaker raised his arms and the gyre widened further. Sea and sky became one. Xrn looked up, her magics barely keeping her rooted as Workers and Soldiers were pulled helplessly into the air. Even the Flying Antinium were at the mercy of the winds—they were dragged into the sky hundreds of miles up and hurled into the ground.

The Goblin Lord laughed and his laughter was thunder. Xrn hurled fire at him, but the other Goblin [Shamans] and [Mages] broke her spells and hurled spells at her. She fled as her army fell up.

 

—-

 

There was only horrified silence as Xrn finished her story. The Antinium sat frozen around the campfire as the wind blew in sympathy for Xrn’s tale. The Small Queen looked up and met Tersk’s eyes.

“We did not know of Goblins. We did not know of the Goblin King or what his armies could do. We underestimated them and paid for it.”

“But how? How could they be so strong?”

Tersk’s voice shook as he looked at the book he held. Xrn shrugged; she had no easy answer. She stared at the Prognugator of the Armored Antinium, wondering if her story had broken his spirit. But to her surprise Pivr spoke up.

“If that was the power the Goblin Lords held, how could we defeat them, Prognugator Xrn? For we surely did not retreat. The Antinium do not retreat. How did we fight them? How did we win?”

She looked at Pivr, surprised. The Revalantor of the Flying Antinium fanned his wings, his multi-faceted eyes ablaze with passion. For all his faults he was brave. So Xrn answered him truthfully, drawing her answer from both past and present.

“It was a grand spell that Tallis Stormbreaker used. He could not call upon it the second time we sent an army towards him, nor the third. He still broke our armies with his magics, but he grew more exhausted with each spell he cast. The Antinium could have paid the price that way, taking his life with mountains of our dead. Or if we had more of our great warriors of old, more of our lost technology we could have overwhelmed him with might. As it was, the Grand Queen chose neither option. She looked at the Goblins as a threat and gave her Prognugators three separate orders. Klbkch, Wrymvr and I were ordered to break the Goblin King’s might at any cost.”

“And did you?”

Pivr’s gaze was steady. Xrn’s mandibles opened and lifted. She smiled at him and the other Antinium and nodded at the book.

“Read and find out. But my presence should be all the answer you need.”

 

—-

 

Three armies. Three disastrous defeats, against a single Goblin Lord no less! The Antinium had been humbled, and at last, after three total routs of her forces, the Grand Queen finally reconsidered the mindless tactics her armies had employed. She ceased battling the Goblin Lord’s army in open engagements and instead began harassing the Goblins in the south of Izril, attacking them at night, through tunnels and with her Silent Antinium, wearing them down as her armies kept a stranglehold on the Drake cities on the eastern front.

The Goblins, perhaps unaware of the situation within Izril, must have received a shock to find such a widespread and fearless enemy already vying for control of the continent. In many ways the Antinium resembled the Goblins with their overwhelming numbers, general lack of intelligence, repulsiveness…but any hope of an alliance between the two verminous species was ruined with the first battle with Tallis Stormbreaker. They became enemies, which in turn eased the pressure off the Human and Drakes defenders as these two powers collided.

Much like the Goblin King, Tallis Stormbreaker was too powerful to rout in a single pitched battle, as his command of massive battlefield-wide spells was especially suited to destroying the Antinium. However, by the same token, his armies failed to uproot the Antinium who would flee the Goblin Lord and then destroy lesser Goblin armies with their ceaseless suicidal attacks.

And meanwhile, the Necromancer was occupied at Liscor, battling with Zel Shivertail. The southern continent of Izril was deadlocked, dear readers, which, sadly, forces us to refocus once more on the Human battles with the Goblins to the north.

The Goblin King’s advance had slowed and even been turned away for the first time at the city of First Landing, although at great cost. Now the Goblin King’s forces split up. Unable to take the city, they began burning and pillaging in a wide radius around the continent, attempting to force the Humans into a pitched battle which they might win, or slowly wear the Humans down.

Several of the Goblin Lords marched west, burning a path across the continent. The rest clashed with the Human defenders. The new generation of [Lords] and [Ladies] showed some resistance here, as Lord Tyrion Veltras demonstrated his military competency against the Goblins and Magnolia Reinhart employed numerous artifacts to slow the Goblin’s progress.

But there were too many Goblins and the Humans were unable to slow their progress. It seemed as if the Goblin King’s armies might well destroy the entire continent as they marched east, undeterred by the Humans’ desperate and uncoordinated resistance. But here they ran into yet another obstacle, this time in the shape of a famous ally from across the world. It was as Greydath of Blades was threatening to defeat a small army of Humans on the Plains of Saltes that he appeared on the battlefield, surprising the world at large and Greydath in particular.

Niers Astoragon, the Titan. The small [Strategist] of Baleros reportedly strode onto the battlefield and made his presence known by taking command of the Human army. It is unknown how he arrived so quickly across the world—especially given how he was seen in Baleros one day prior to this battle. Travelling so far and so fast is practically impossible, and yet the Fraerling [Strategist] managed it somehow. For reference, the most world-famous Couriers making use of the fastest ships and artifacts still require at least four days to make the journey across from Baleros to Izril, and that is only the sea voyage.

It is speculated that he must have had a particularly powerful scroll of [Teleportation] or employed the services of some exceptionally powerful mage or group of mages—and it is noted that all of Wistram’s [Mages] deny helping the Titan at this juncture—but whatever the case, the Titan used the surprise his appearance had caused to push Greydath’s army back and win one of the first victories for the Humans.

This was not the only battle Niers Astoragon would win either. The tiny second-in-command of one of the Four Great Companies quickly assumed control of the Human armies in the area and proceeded to win or stalemate the Goblin Lords in the area. This sudden rallying in the east gave the Humans a second wind, despite the obvious irony that they were placing their hopes on such tiny shoulders. Still, this writer supposes that if any shoulders were equal to the burden, it was those of Niers Astoragon, the Titan of Baleros himself.

The Titan is of course famed for having defeated one of the King of Destruction’s Seven, the Gambler of Fates, Queravia, among his other accomplishments, but he rose to greater heights during the Second Antinium War. As one of the highest-level [Strategists] in the world he was able to fight on the same level with the Goblin Lords and his grasp of strategy would see him outmaneuvering the Goblin Lords despite possessing a weaker or less numerous force in the battles he fought.

It is unknown why Niers Astoragon chose to risk his life as he did and fight the Goblin King’s armies head on, especially since Baleros was already in the process of sending armies across the sea to defend Izril. Perhaps it was guilt that prompted the Titan to fight directly against the Goblin King.

After all, it was his company who first agreed to peace with Velan the Kind when he was a Goblin Lord. The Fraerling [Strategist] must have attempted to repay his considerable debt to the people of the world, and it has to be said, his impact on the battlefield was not as minute as his stature. He pushed back the armies of two Goblin Lords at once, fending both off with the skill that prompts some to call him the greatest [Strategist] in the world.

However, as with all non-Drake heroes, it appears Niers Astoragon had a fatal flaw. In this case, it was that of cowardice, for he refused to do battle with the Goblin King. Velan the Kind appeared on battlefields across Izril, pushing his armies east, south, north and west, his armies enjoying victory after victory when he fought among them. And whenever he would appear on the eastern fronts, Niers Astoragon would retreat from battle, allowing the Goblin King to gobble up cities and entire provinces rather than risk any kind of engagement with him.

Shockingly, it appeared that the Titan’s spine was far weaker than that of the lowest-level Drake [Soldier], as he would go on to end the Second Antinium War without ever participating in a battle where the Goblin King was present.

When questioned about his fearful retreat from any actual conflict with the Goblin King, the much-vaunted [Strategist] of Baleros had only this to say:

“I’m not an idiot.”

He then refused to reply to any of the letters this humble [Writer] sent to him, leaving this questionable page in history unfortunately blank. At least Niers Astoragon’s strategy bought time for the Humans, but in the larger scale of things, his retreats allowed the Goblin an equal number of effortless victories, balancing his contributions out on the whole. Whether his aid was truly that monumental is a debate for [Tacticians], but this Drake has his own doubts on the matter.

 

“That clod-footed village-smasher. I told him not to print that!”

Niers Astoragon frowned down at the tiny book in his hands. He considered ripping it up, but books were expensive, and books that were made for Fraerlings were hard to obtain. They were almost twice as expensive in fact—not because of the costs of production, which were minute, but because a Fraerling [Bookbinder] and [Scribe] had to labor hard to copy texts in minutiae.

So he reluctantly put the book down before he tossed it into the burning wax candle that sat next to him. Niers got up and paced about the table, kicking aside a tea bag as he vented his emotions.

A large furry hand reached down and picked up the tea bag. Foliana, sitting at Niers’ table in his quarters, raised the tea bag and began nibbling at it. She had no tea cup. In fact, she had nothing to drink at all. She did have a muffin, which she held in her other hand.

“Mm. He doesn’t like you.”

“Who? The author? He does not. I’ve met petty Drakes, but including all that nonsense because I refused to let him interview me and entertain all his idiotic questions? That’s a new low.”

Niers scowled but tromped back to his miniature armchair, sighing as he picked the book up and sat back in his chair. He looked up at Foliana as she perched on a much larger stool by their table.

It was a custom the two had to sit together and relax when they could. In this case, the relaxing component was debatable, but Niers still thought it was important to keep reading. He grunted as he flipped through the pages, trying to find where he’d last been reading.

“This business with the Goblin Lord has me uneasy, Foliana. There are too many parallels to the past. Zel Shivertail, Magnolia Reinhart…”

“Could be her plans. She did want to involve us.”

“True. I just don’t know…oh come now. ‘Fraerling courage is clearly in short supply?’ He calls himself a writer? This is the most biased, petty—”

Foliana reached down and patted Niers on the head. He shoved her paw away, irritated. She shrugged and went back to consuming the tea bag. After the Fraerling had calmed he looked up at Foliana and sighed.

“He is right on one count, though. We did allow this. If I had any inkling that Velan would have become this, I would have destroyed his tribe when we first met him.”

“Would have been tricky. He was strong back then.”

“And sane. Dead gods, Foliana, what happened to him?”

“Became Goblin King. Went crazy.”

Foliana shrugged, nibbling at the tea grounds. Niers frowned. He stroked at his beard, thinking hard.

“There has to be more to it than that. You met Velan once, Foliana. What did you think of him?”

“Sane. Smart. Kind. Like his name. Cared about his people. Also strong.”

Niers grunted.

“That was my impression as well. He was so calm and intelligent for a Goblin that I found myself taken with him in an instant. His sudden change though…it’s one of the mysteries I intend to unravel.”

“Like chess? And the dungeon?”

“All of it fits together somehow Foliana. I’m sure of it. If I only had time, I’d go to that new dungeon in Liscor, and the old one they found in Terandria. I could put together clues. But there’s never enough time, is there?”

The Titan sighed, and Foliana broke off a piece of her strawberry muffin and offered it to him. He took a crumb the size of his head and chewed on it glumly.

“I suppose it does seem cowardly, doesn’t it? But I knew any battle with Velan would be disastrous, so I did what I could. The army I had to work with was dispirited and lacked unity. I couldn’t see any way to pin down Velan without him tearing a hole in every formation I sent at him. Do you think I was wrong not to try to occupy him?”

Foliana was silent as she sat on her chair. The candle dripped beads of wax slowly until she began to nibble at the candle as well. Niers snapped at her and she abandoned eating the candle and spoke at last.

“Niers, you remember what I told you when all the others were telling us to come fight, don’t you? They wanted us to send our company to Izril. Across the oceans. I said no. I don’t like water and you were there. That was enough.”

“I recall you saying so. You refused to cross to Izril.”

“Mm. And you know why that is?”

“Besides you not liking water?”

“Mhm. But also another reason. Do you know?”

“No. Why didn’t you go?”

Foliana stopped nibbling at her muffin and looked at Niers with her tri-colored eyes.

“I’m not an idiot either. Even if he ate muffins, I would get killed before I scratched him.”

She sat back on her chair. Niers looked thoughtfully at the book in front of him and then frowned.

“This author really is insufferable. Yes, we were in full retreat. But that was in the expectation of reinforcements! Which we received, I might add! You remember, don’t you, Foliana? We were negotiating for every company we could get to cross the seas, and then—”

“I remember. I offered them a muffin if they’d go.”

“I recall that. You need to work on your tact or let our [Emissaries] sort negotiations out, Foliana. I can’t believe you got the companies to actually agree to help. How did you do it? And don’t tell me it was a muffin.”

“It was.”

“They sailed across the sea and fought the Goblin Lord for a muffin?”

“Well, it was made of gold. And I did offer them a few baskets.”

 

—-

 

While the Goblin King’s armies pursued the Humans across the continent, the world was slowly beginning to wake up to his threat. The desperate pleas from the Humans and Drake requests for assistance went largely ignored in Chandrar, who had seen too much death from the King of Destruction already. But Baleros, enraged by the Goblin King’s treachery, had sent countless mercenary companies across the ocean. Rhir sent a small army as well, honoring the treaties as the Blighted King always has, but it was Terandria who was first to act.

The shorter distance between Terandria and Izril and the continent’s own history with the previous Goblin King, Curulac of a Hundred Days, meant that the normally short-sighted [Kings] and [Queens] were aware of the Goblin threat from the start. Thus, an army of two hundred thousand Terandrians landed on the northern shores of Izril at the end of the summer.

They met the Goblin King’s forces right away. Velan the Kind had been caught off-guard by the Human’s arrival and was in the middle of pulling his forces back to face this new threat. To buy time he personally assailed the Terandrians as they were landing ships with five thousand of his Goblin elites.

This writer realizes that the idea of five thousand Goblins attacking a force numbering over two hundred thousand seems ludicrous, but the Goblin King was cut of the same cloth that the King of Destruction, Flos, was made of. Tales of his ability in battle are widespread, and this writer will omit any tedious recitals of his feats in combat. Suffice it to say that the Goblin King was known for defeating enemy [Generals] and [Mages] in combat, and his Goblin elites were similarly powerful.

The vanguard he led into battle was comprised of Hobs who were all as powerful as Gold-rank adventurers. They carried magical weapons and armor into battle and some were reportedly as tall as half-Giants. Whether these rumors are entirely accurate is unknown, but they were certainly a force to be reckoned with, as the Terandrians found to their cost.

The sheer daring of the attack on their ships caught the Terandrians unawares. The Goblin King managed to sink several ships before the Terandrians drove him off, and he successfully beat back the Terandrians in battle after battle, once again proving the futility of placing any kind of hopes on Humans.

However, the Terandrian forces were only the first wave. More fleets began arriving on Izril, all of whom began to come under immediate attack the instant they landed, sometimes before they reached ground. The Goblin King’s armies reformed into a spear that fought off the foreign armies, and the war in the north became a stalemate.

Yes, even with so many continents lending their aid, the battle against the Goblin King had only shifted from a losing battle into one on equal footing. Worse, it was feared that Tallis Stormbreaker would abandon his campaign to the south to support Velan the Kind.

The [Shaman] in the south had broken the Drakes and Antinium forces sent against him. And though the Antinium had stymied his forces, the Goblins would soon strike the larger blow. After a series of Antinium strikes against his forces, the Goblin King personally appeared in the south. He swiftly encircled an Antinium Hive and after wiping all the Antinium on the surface, led his army into the Hive and slew the Queen inside himself.

The fact that the Goblin King had succeeded in the very tactic that had cost so many lives of Drake armies must have shaken the Antinium terribly, for they immediately ceased attacking the Goblin King’s armies and pulled back all their armies to defend their remaining Hives. This cessation of assaults meant that Tallis Stormbreaker was free to maneuver his armies, which in turn gave him the opportunity to move through the High Passes and join the fighting in the north if he so chose.

If the Goblins concentrated all their forces in the north, the continent might be lost entirely, especially because the Necromancer had cut off the only safe land route north. And as the fighting drew into fall, it seemed like the Drakes might lose Liscor for good. No aid had reached the embattled forces of Zel Shivertail—Tallis Stormbreaker’s armies lay in the way, as did the Antinium forces. Zel Shivertail’s urgent missives were met with denials or silence from the Drake cities. Day by day his forces decreased and the Necromancer’s increased.

But still, Liscor fought! Against all odds dear readers, the Siege of Liscor had continued not for days, not for weeks, but for three months by the time they had reached the breaking point! Every adult in Liscor had taken to the walls during this time, and Zel Shivertail’s army continued to assail the Necromancer, holding the battle lines and shielding Liscor from the full brunt of his attacks.

Yes, if there is any battle to commemorate the spirit of Drakes, it would be that one. A single Drake [Spearsman] would stop a charging Draugr that Gold-rank adventurers might struggle to subdue. The Drake civilians, led by the core of their army, fended off wraith attacks and the undead giants with their indomitable spirit.

What courage, what valorous acts must have been seen every day! This writers longs to have been there, to see the heroism of Drakes at our finest. Despite the dark hour, the Necromancer had yet to take the city. And though it seemed like the final blow would be struck any day now, the Drakes still held on. Valiant, undeterred, full of the courage that is such a byword of the Drake species as a whole—

 

“Grandma, you’re grinding your teeth. If you don’t stop I’m taking the book away.”

Selys Shivertail sighed and looked up, unable to take the noise any longer. She didn’t live with her grandmother in the same apartment—that would have been a nightmare—but she visited the elderly Drake often. Selys usually found herself in her grandmother’s home at least once a week.

She told herself it was because she liked her grandmother, Tekshia Shivertail. And that was true, but it was also true that Tekshia Shivertail was the Guildmaster of the Adventurer’s Guild in Liscor. In other words, she was Selys’ boss as well as her grandmother and she wasn’t shy about withholding Selys’ pay unless her granddaughter showed up regularly.

It usually wasn’t a problem, but Selys would rather be out partying on a night like tonight. Instead, she was stuck with her grandmother, listening to the old Drake’s teeth grind and her tail thrashing.

“Stop reading that history book, grandma. You always get mad when you do, and remember what the [Healer] said?”

Tekshia Shivertail looked up. Her scales were grayer and had a lot less luster than Selys’, but she was still spry and quite attractive with her light green coloration. She lashed her tail irritably as she glared at her granddaughter across the table.

“What the [Healer] said? He said I’m in better shape than you are, girl. I’m fit, you’re not. I can still outrun half the Gnolls in this city and you’re too lazy to get out of bed until the sun’s halfway overhead!”

“…Right. But he said that you get angry and that’s a bad thing.”

“For other people maybe!”

Tekshia slammed a fist onto the table and Selys jumped.

“Yeah, and I’m other people, grandma! Remember when you sent that poor Gnoll to the healer’s?”

“What of it? I have a right to be angry, especially when I read this nonsense!”

Tekshia waved the book angrily at Selys. Her granddaughter peered at the book.

“What’s that? The Second History of the Antinium Wars? I thought the author was very complimentary about us.”

“He is. Too much! That idiot’s practically licking our feet and wagging his tail over our ‘heroic sacrifice’. Heroic? There was nothing heroic about the siege and the Necromancer! It was the most miserable, nightmarish three months I’ve ever lived through and I’ve lived a long time! But to hear this Wordsmith fellow tell it, we were all having a grand time! Here, just listen to that.”

Selys’ grandmother read the offending passage out loud and Selys winced.

“Okay, he might not understand how battles work. I don’t think this Drake has ever seen a zombie, much less anything scarier than that.”

Tekshia snorted, her tail curling around the leg of her chair in irritation.

“That’s clear enough. A single Drake [Spearman] stopping a charging Draugr? Hah! Those damn things will run down the length of your spear and gut you before you can blink twice! And fighting off wraiths with swords? What does this [Writer] think we did, yell at them and hurt their feelings?”

“At least he thinks we’re heroes. It could be worse.”

Selys tried to calm her grandmother down, but Tekshia was too incensed to let up. She got up, muttering, and poured herself some tea, angrily spilling some on the book.

“Ancestors take it! Get me a cloth before the ink runs, Selys. Not that one! That’s my good cloth! Yes, that! Bring it over here!”

She dabbed at the pages of the book with the second-best cloth as Selys sighed loudly. Tekshia ignored her and went on.

“Being called heroes is almost as bad as cowards. And he completely neglected to mention how we felt! It’s as if our situation didn’t matter, as if we could hold our ground despite the odds! We were begging for reinforcements. But oh no, he would have everyone thinking we were just too lazy to beat the Necromancer when he was slaughtering us day by day!”

She ground her teeth again, sipping at her tea and making a hissing sound deep in her throat.

“If that coward—this Wordsmith fellow ever dared come here, we’d show him what we think about his ‘history’ book. It’s a shame our army isn’t near his home, or I’d ask a few of the boys to go to his house and teach him a lesson.”

“Grandma!”

Selys shot out of her chair and glared at Tekshia, looking horrified. The older Drake was unapologetic.

“What? A few sticks and rocks and a beating is how we used to settle things! Street justice is swifter than the Watch—and more efficient too! It’s not like I’d ask them to kill him—just break his hands, maybe.”

“That’s just as bad!”

“Is it? He can write what he wants and get away with it and we can’t tell him how we feel? Not while I’m alive. Get me my quill and ink and some parchment, would you, Selys dear?”

“Absolutely not.”

Selys folded her arms. Tekshia eyed the younger Drake balefully, but then relented.

“You’re right. I’ll send a [Message] spell instead. Much quicker. Anyways, at least this Wordsmith fellow got one thing right.”

Tekshia opened the book again, ignoring her granddaughter’s spluttering. She tapped one claw approvingly on a line in the book.

“It was Zel Shivertail who rallied us. Without him we would have been lost. That much is true.”

“Uncle Zel? He never talks about the battle around me. What was it like with him fighting the Necromancer? Was he really as big a hero as everyone says he was?”

Selys leaned over the table, peering at the book. Tekshia tilted the page to show Selys. She sighed, her anger giving way to nostalgia.

“He was a giant. That silly young Drake with his battered armor, fighting on the front lines, surrounded by undead. Taking shots from Az’kerash himself and standing right back up and charging back into the fray—how could we not follow him? I remember when he would visit the city as a child. That hatchling became a fine [General]. So long as he stood, we could keep fighting.”

“It’s so strange. He never mentions any of that to me. He’s just Uncle Zel when he visits. He eats pies, beats up [Thugs]—I can’t ever picture him being a big hero on the battlefield.”

Selys shook her head and Tekshia smacked her niece’s claws before Selys could reach for a fruit tart.

“Those are mine, you thieving little hatchling! If you want a snack then bring me those ‘cookies’ or some of that ‘cake’ you keep bragging about eating! Honestly, if you know this Human [Innkeeper] so well you could at least bring me some of her cooking! And you don’t know how important your uncle is because you’ve never been on any battlefield! If you wanted to know what it was like, why didn’t you ask him when he visited?”

“Uncle Zel never talks about the siege, grandma. He’s too embarrassed whenever people come up to thank him.”

“That hatchling. We’re grateful to him. But he’s just like your father used to be. Embarrassed when people praise him for what he did. It explains why he left without visiting me.”

“He visited you once, grandma.”

Once! Hah! He’s fearless on the battlefield, but he can’t handle me asking him about marriage! I keep telling him to settle down with a nice young Drake or at least have sex—he doesn’t have to marry them! He can make a few hatchlings and then—”

Grandmother!

Selys glared at her grandmother, scandalized. The old Drake flicked her tail at Selys’ face.

“You prudish youngsters! You’re all so timid. What happened to all the real Drakes? The kind who’d never bend their tails for any threat, who’d stand tall no matter what tried to beat them down? Your mother was as brave as could be, and she wasn’t shy about grabbing your father. And I’m sure they would have given me at least one more grandchild if—if—”

Tekshia’s ranting slowed and she stopped, suddenly acutely aware of her audience. Selys’ tail went still and Tekshia cleared her throat, avoiding her eyes.

“I’m sorry dear. I shouldn’t be reading this after all. You’re right. Too many bad memories come up. Especially with the siege. You might be too young to remember, it but—”

“No, I remember.”

Selys closed her eyes. She had been there. She could remember Liscor’s siege. Not the fighting, but the hiding in her house, the screams, the wounded and the stench—her grandmother patted Selys on the knee gently.

“I do talk too much, don’t I? I’ll stop. Let’s talk about happier things.”

She made to close the book, but Selys stopped her.

“No, go on. Keep talking. You hardly ever do and no one else will. Tell me about what it was like?”

“Again?”

Selys gulped. The young Drake woman stared at the book and then at her grandmother.

“Yes. Tell me. Tell me about all of it, and the parts you won’t tell me. Tell me about my parents. And…how they died.”

A flash of pain crossed over Selys’ grandmother’s face. Tekshia Shivertail closed the book and closed her eyes for a second. Selys waited, her heart twisting. She had been young then. But she could still remember her grandmother walking through the door, her armor covered in blood. She remembered asking for her parents and seeing the answer in the tears on her grandmother’s face.

Once. Tekshia looked away, raising a claw to scratch at the greyed scales on her neck.

“I told you, they died on the walls. Most of us did. Hah—the Necromancer couldn’t break our gates, and he could only send waves up the walls. We held him with spears and swords. Axes too. We’d toss rocks at the Draug that climbed up, cut them down before they could get onto clear ground. Because when they did—”

“That’s when it happened?”

The old Drake didn’t reply at first. Her voice was distant when she eventually spoke.

“We didn’t have enough [Mages]. I keep telling those idiots who run the Walled Cities—I say it all the time. We don’t have enough magic-users. Drakes don’t take to magic like other species. We say it’s dishonorable, too easy—not military. So what? If we had as many [Mages] as we had [Sergeants] in the army we would have beaten the Necromancer without help. Instead, our wonderful army of idiots died one by one as Az’kerash sniped them with spells. And on that day he sent the wraiths to harass us.”

Her eyes were distant. Selys remembered the sounds she’d heard from her house. The unearthly screams, the boom of magics, the only thing that could harm the spectral wraiths. And her grandmother’s voice went on, softer.

“They cut us down before Zel could get a [Mage] unit in position to help us blast them away. That gave the Necromancer’s army time to send up, oh, fifteen of the Draugr into one spot.  Fifteen, and one of those giant Carcass Walkers for good measure. It barely needed to climb to get up. I remember seeing it towering over the others and thinking this was the end.”

“But it wasn’t.”

Selys’ grandmother stirred. A bit of anger flashed into her eyes and she sat up.

“Of course not! Your father would never allow it. Your mother either. She was already shooting those Draugr off—using the last of her enchanted arrows. I told her to hold on to them, to wait for a good shot to and put one between the Necromancer’s eyes, but her arrows gave us a chance to rally. That brave idiot. If she’d just held onto one rather than save us, then maybe she would have taken the wraith out. But it got her from behind. And your father—”

Selys’ eyes were dry. She’d heard the story too many times. But her claws scraped at each other as she gripped her hands tightly together. Her grandmother’s eyes were distant, her head turned to the very walls.

“Your father saw the Carcass Walker start tearing us apart. And more undead were coming up the walls. The Necromancer knew we were about to break so he sent everything he had at us. Another minute and the Walker would have cleared us all off. So your father charged into it. He used a Skill—[Ram’s Charge], that silly, silly move. And he knocked it off the walls. And he went over with it.”

“And did he—when he fell, I mean. Was it—”

Selys’ throat closed over the next word. Was it quick? Her heart was twisting like her hands, twisting and twisting until she thought it might snap. But it never did. It just hurt. Tekshia shook her head.

“I don’t know. I was fighting—I couldn’t look around. Your father was brave, strong—I have to imagine he survived. He must have took down a score of them before they overwhelmed him. We never found his body, but he must have—”

Her voice trailed off. For a second she looked so lost. Selys hugged her. Tekshia stiffened, and then came back to reality. She was still for a second and then her voice returned to its usual snappishness.

“Enough sobbing over the past. Your parents died like the heroes they always were, Selys. We might have all died had the siege gone on a day longer. It wasn’t glorious; we fought because we had no choice. We fought and died, and only those of us who were there will ever know what it was like. And no idiotic [Writer] can change that.”

She busied herself around her kitchen, pushing the plate of tarts towards Selys. The young Drake woman took one and chewed it slowly, coming back from those dark times. Tekshia’s mood returned to normal too, and soon she was grousing about incompetent adventurers, who had been stronger, smarter, faster, and cleaner back when she’d been young.

“It’s a disgrace when there’s not one Gold-rank adventurer in Liscor who’s a Drake! Not one! Where did all our adventurers go? And just look at the Human ones who keep coming here! Now we have [Necromancers] walking about the city! I can’t understand why you tolerate that Human one, Selys. You of all people!”

Selys sighed, predicting another argument with her grandmother. She adopted a patient, if slightly strained, tone.

“He saved my life, grandma. During the attack on Liscor by the undead. And before you say anything it wasn’t his fault! He saved me and Erin too and he killed more undead than anyone else I saw that night.”

“So? Thank him and then kick him out of the city, that’s what I say! But no, he’s just a nuisance, not a threat. Ridiculous. At least you could kick him out rather than letting him in the Guild! If your father and mother could see you now, holding tails with a [Necromancer]…”

Grandma! I’m not dating him!”

Selys rolled her eyes and her grandmother grunted. She returned to the book, flipping through pages. And again, the past uncurled and swept through the room, reaching out from the parchment and engulfing the two Drakes. Tekshia’s voice was soft as she spoke to herself and her granddaughter.

“Yes, it felt like it was over that day. We had the wall, but the Necromancer was still pushing, and Zel couldn’t get to us this time. Not enough soldiers. We were going to break, I felt it.”

“Just like that?”

“You say it as if we hadn’t been on the verge for months. This was it. We didn’t have the strength to fight for another day and night without rest Selys. I was thinking of you, thinking of trying to get away with you when the lines fell, get you to Zel and away from the battle if I could. And that’s when we heard the horn calls in the distance. We turned, and saw them.”

Tekshia’s claw closed on her teacup, so hard that the ceramic cracked. She didn’t notice. She stared into the distance and Selys remembered too. The shouting, the screams, and then the cheering.

“There they were, Selys. We thought they were our doom when we first saw them from afar. But then we realized they were our salvation. They came down like the sea itself and broke the Necromancer’s armies. That is why we opened our gates to them. That is why we signed the treaty here. Because they saved us.”

Selys nodded. She stared at the book, which was so complimentary of the Drakes of Liscor and had omitted one of the most important points. Zel Shivertail was a hero of Liscor, true enough. But Liscor had another hero, whose tale was largely untold in this historical narrative. They had broken the siege, delivered the people of Liscor from the Necromancer at the last moment. The most unexpected of allies, those strange invaders from another continent, another world.

“The Antinium.”

 


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18 thoughts on “S02 – The Antinium Wars (Pt.4)

    • Man, I always struggle so much with worldbuilding–especially history– and here you are, pulling off a freaking DOUBLE chapter. How?

      How do you do it???

      • No one plans for the double chapter.

        As for the how of worldbuilding–I struggled very much with the first chapter until I realized the building of worlds should take second place to the people within. We see their past and that defines the world for us. History is a story about people, after all.

  1. Leave a comment for two chapters! Well, two 8,000 word chapters. Which is still pretty long! And probably full of typos!

    (Typo hounds: Neceros, Carsten, MrWiggles)

    • Thanks for releasing these chapters to us non-patreon readers a day early. Have a nice break.

      typo:
      each lead by a [General] of the Drake cities.
      lead -> led

      and perhaps even the Goblin Lord and Antinium underestimated him.
      Goblin King

    • So he reluctantly put the book down before he tossed it into the burning wax candle that sat next to him… Niers scowled but tromped back to his miniature armchair, sighing as he picked the book up and sat back in his chair.

      If he burned the book, how did he continue reading?

    • Hey, so I’m going beyond typos here and into grammar and syntax. It’s a little long as a result. Feel free to tell me to shove off if I’m being a busybody.

      the Human armies were pathetically crushed by superior Drake forces who sent in multiple [Commander] classes into each battle

      “in” and “into” – remove “in”

      every army that he encountered, save for the Goblin King’s army

      “army” twice – “[…] save for the Goblin King’s”

      the Goblin King was cut of the same cloth that the King of Destruction, Flos, was made of

      “of of of” – you could eliminate two “of”s and tighten up the sentence with “the Goblin King was cut from the same cloth as the King of Destruction, Flos.”

      If the Goblins concentrated all their forces in the north, the continent might be lost entirely, especially because the Necromancer had cut off the only safe land route north.

      You could use past perfect tense for all of it – “If the Goblins had
      concentrated all their forces in the north, the continent might have been lost entirely, especially because the Necromancer had cut off the only safe land route north.”

      This writers longs to have been there

      writer

      A single Drake [Spearman] stopping a charging Draugr?

      It was [Spearsman] in the preceding passage, but I kind of like this typo because it reinforces the idea he has no idea what he’s talking about, especially once she points it out.

  2. I know this is a small thing, but what are the fertility right like in this world? With how often there seems to be contenent rending events that seem as depopulating as the black death how on Earth can the species keep fighting?

    • Well, I can’t speak with the word of god, but I can offer my own speculation, and I think we can get a decent idea of how things might work by comparing it to the real world.

      For example, humans are capable of pumping out far more babies than they generally do. You see this most prominently in developing nations. All countries go through a natural curve, with less advanced societies having high birth and death rates and more advanced ones having low birth and death rates, but both societies being equally stable, just in different ways.

      In medieval level societies couples have tons of kids because they’re very likely to die before adulthood, in more medically advanced societies people marry later and have one or two kids that are very likely to survive to adulthood.

      Now, its difficult to speculate exactly where this world is on that graph, but I would speculate that it is in the high birth, high death, stage. Medicine may not be as advanced as on Earth, but even modest level [Healers] and [Midwives] could result in a significant shift in early deaths, resulting in more children reaching adulthood (as well as less direct shifts, like more food from leveled [Farmers]). However, these children would have far greater likelihood of violent deaths when compared with Earth, shifting the death rates higher as well.

      Hypothetically speaking, these changes would counteract one another, making the population level and stability analogous to medieval Earth.

      There would be outliers of course, but those are accounted for in the large number of fallen civilizations. When something throws the chart off balance in one direction you get the meteoric rise of a burgeoning empire, like the Empire of Shifting Sands, when it gets thrown off course in the other direction you get the Ruins of Albez, where entire nations cease to be.

  3. What is Zel’s relationship to Selys’ grandmother? Given that they have the same last name and he is explicitly Selys’ uncle, I would assume that he’s either her son or her brother. But her story here makes it sound like they aren’t related but still know each other. If they didn’t have the same name I’d assume that he’s on the other side of the family, but as it is I’m just confused.

    • They’re related, but not exactly first relatives. Selys uses ‘uncle’ as a vague term, which is more of his relationship to her rather than his strict biological position. No one wants to call him ‘third cousin Zel’.

      Drakes have large families all with the last name. Blackwing, Shivertail…those are huge clans. So Zel will visit Tekshia on occasion–probably because they did fight together and he was around her and Selys quite a bit as she grew up, but it’s not as if they’re always meeting.

      And she keeps telling him to get busy. Zel probably avoids her a bit more just because of that.

  4. I’ve been wondering about why they let the Antimium into their city after reading the history of the first war. This is a great explanation.

    I know you keep saying that you don’t like writing history chapters, but you keep nailing them imo, they’ve been some of my favourite chapters.

  5. Holy cow. Tallis is ridiculous. I’m thinking that was a portal to space? If so, this is evidence in favor of the “goblins used to be gnomes” theory, since we know gnomes have been to the moon.

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